Colors and Suits: The Rules?

color rules for suitsToday, Reader C has an interesting question about “color rules” for suits…

I recently bought my first suit from BR (thanks to your post!). I plan to wear it a huge conference that the nonprofit where I work is organizing. At the store, I was trying to choose between getting a black suit or a light gray one from the same collection. The sales associates asked me what shirt I was planning to wear with my suit – I told them it was a dark navy silky top that I was wearing at that time. Immediately, both of them said I should get the black suit because the navy would be too dark for a light gray suit. They said the gray suit should be worn with lighter colors. I did settle on the black suit but it’s because I thought I can wear it with light and dark colored tops. However the associates’ reaction got me wondering – are there rules about matching shirts with suits that I don’t know about? I thought a black suit with a white shirt is classic but perhaps I am outdated.

Maybe I’m alone here, but — whaaa? The associates’ advice doesn’t make sense to me at all. First, I would not advise someone to wear a navy blouse with a black suit unless I’d seen it first to make sure it was clearly navy blue and there was no whiff of “I got dressed in the dark and thought I was wearing all black.” Second, I normally wear black tops with gray suits (hello, New Yorker here), as well as darker jewel tones.  (Pictured: Stained Glass Color Wheel, originally uploaded to Flickr by garlandcannon.)

Personally, I would wear the following with a black suit: any color of the rainbow, including black. (Subject to the the above caveat about making sure the navy is clearly blue and not so close to black that it looks like you didn’t know when you got up in the morning.) I’m a fan of wearing multiple colors at once — by which I mean that if I wore a red top, I might try to wear a turquoise necklace, or perhaps a pair of purple pumps, to add some visual interest to the outfit — but that’s just my general sense. I also tend to avoid wearing white with black — too waiter-like — but that, again, is a weird predilection — I certainly wouldn’t say that someone was wrong to do that.

I would wear the following with a gray suit: Yep, pretty much any color of the rainbow. I’ve worn pastels with gray suits (I’m a fan of a yellow with gray in particular), but I’ve also worn a lot of black, blood red, mallard blue, etc.

The only “rule” I can possibly think of is that a lighter gray suit is probably going to be a spring/summer item, whereas a charcoal suit is going to be a fall/winter item — but I think ultimately it comes down to fabric.  If you have a light gray tweed suit, it’s a fall/winter item, no matter what color the gray is.

Maybe I’m crazy, though (I’m having that kind of a day!), so let’s take a poll.

what-to-wear-with-gray-suits

Have I totally missed some “suit color rules”?  Readers, please weigh in…
Looking for a gray suit? Browse below…

Comments

  1. Kat, you are not crazy! My thought process was the same as yours as I was reading this situation. Gray and black are both neutrals, thus can be paired with any color. Having not seen the value of the navy blouse, my first instinct was to say the gray suit because of your same reasoning (making sure it was a true navy). It come down to the weight of the fabrics, not the color, in this instance, but a silky top should be appropriate for almost any basic suiting fabric in any neutral color.

  2. This strikes me as the type of advice a man might want to follow, not a woman. Men who wear suits that are lighter than their shirts look strange. It just seems very 80s. Perhaps whoever trained the sales clerks gave them this advice with the intent that they use it to advise men, but neglected to make it gender specific.

  3. I own gray, black, navy, and tan suits, and I wear just about any color with any of them. Except brown, which I rarely wear at all (I have about 2 pairs of brown pants and 1 pair of shoes that go with them, and certain tops that I’ve figured out pair well with them; I’ve had a black-based wardrobe all my life and figuring out what to wear with brown does not come easily to me).

    I do tend to favor higher contrast….75% of the time if I’m wearing a light gray suit, I wear a darker top, and if I’m wearing a dark suit, I’ll wear a lighter top. But yesterday I wore a black suit with a dark burgundy sweater, and I think soft pink looks great with light gray, so obviously that’s not a hard and fast rule for me.

    And I don’t wear navy tops with black suits, just because I worry it won’t come off as planned. I can see other people doing that and looking great, but I tend not to be that bold.

  4. I wear navy tops with light grey pants (and dark grey pants) on a regular basis. I don’t know why the sales associates would think that’s a bad combo; I think it looks very crisp.
    I wouldn’t wear navy with a black suit because I think it’s too dark for my complexion but that’s just me, for others it would probably work.

  5. I think those BR girls are crazy! – and ya know girls who work at BR most likely never worked in the corporate world so they wouldn’t have real-life experience to know how to put together real-world corporate outfits. Anyway, I agree with everyone – grey is a neutral and I think it looks great with any color – even black, and even pewter. Wear what you want and just own it girrrrl!

    • I don’t know whether you meant this to sound as classist as it does.

      • Anonymous :

        More like ageist, aesthetic, and correct.

      • Yeah I’m thinking this is more in reference to age. I worked at a BR once and nearly everyone working there (including me) was a student, so its safe to say they had never worked in an office.

      • I’m not sure it sounded classist – the BR sales folks tend to be young, often high-school/college/just post college. It’s very likely that they have never worked in a corporate setting, although they might some day.

        • former AT employee :

          I worked in retail recently, and we had a number of people who either had previously had corporate experience or were trying to supplement their “real job” with extra income. Maybe once upon a time, retail was only the domain of students, but I don’t think that is the case anymore.

          That said, we did have many students who didn’t know what they were doing, but they also stood out and I can’t think of many who would have taken their advice seriously.

          • This!

          • Yep. I had a VS salesgirl try to tell me a printed bra showing through a sheer white shirt was “really cute” for a professional setting. Ummm. Professional what?

  6. I don’t like to wear black with black suits. When I wear all black, I like them to be the same tone, and my black blouses all seem to have a green tint to them. It looks weird with the suit, but maybe I’ve just stared at myself in the mirror for a little too long. I wear pretty much any color of the rainbow with grey suits as well.

    My real question is what to wear with an aubergine suit? I have one from Pendleton, and it’s beautiful. I have a hunter green silk shirt from Tahari that I’ve tried with it, but I feel like the Joker. I’ve been wearing ivory, which seems like the safest bet, but a little boring. Maybe a brick red? I have light carrot-colored hair and warm-toned skin.

    • ooh! Fabo! I’m assuming it’s a wool blend if it’s Pendleton? Why not wear soft silky tanks with it – in shimmery pale pewter or even lavendar? Even tops with a print that have purple in the pattern would be fun and a nice contrast to the conservative suit…. looooove it!

    • My boss has an aubergine suit (it may be the same one you have, as she loves Pendleton) and she wears it with black underneath usually. She also has a silver silk top, a pale gold top, and a deep tan – darker than a khaki color – silk top that she wears with the aubergine occasionally and they all look great. I’d look at lighter earth tones and neutrals to see if you can find something that matches – maybe go shopping when you’re wearing the jacket so you can match.

      I would not wear the green top with it as I definitely think people will start asking you “why so serious??” :)

    • Teal? Turquoise? A soft blue, something like that maybe?

      • I was going to suggest that. I personally also like pink, but it depends a lot on the tone of the aubergine.

        I live the pewter suggestions!

        Maybe also something like saffron (new new favorite color) or mustard? Again, so depends on the tone.

    • Lol, I just recommended purple paired with brown pants, so let me recommend brown with your aubergine. I pair plums and browns all the time and I like the way it looks.

    • I have an aubergine cardigan that I pair with a light gray silk top, although I have also worn a black top with it. I just think the light gray looks better.

    • Jade Moon :

      I once wore a black mock turtleneck with a black suit when I was a very young lawyer. During a recess opposing counsel called me Lash LaRue, and I laughed out loud because it was true. Of course, I never wore that outfit again.

  7. I never, ever wear white with either black or gray suits. Sometimes a deep cream or ivory, but never white. Black and white is very “waiter” or even “mannish” to me, unless either the cut of the suit or the top, or the detailing on either is more modern or feminine.

    I don’t own any light gray suits – light gray doesn’t suit my coloring, at least no light gray I’ve found – but I do own medium gray and dark gray suits. 80% of the time I wear black under the medium gray, and the rest of the time I wear a purple, teal, red, or other jewel-tone top. With the dark gray, I tend to wear dark pink, deep rose, purple, or the aforementioned ivory. I feel like the darker the suit, the lighter the top should be so you don’t look like a monochromatic block of dark, but that’s just me. I never, for example, wear a black top under a black jacket with black pants because I feel like it’s too much black. However, my definition of “lighter” for tops is probably is not other people’s “lighter” because I do not wear pastels at all, they are terrible with my coloring.

    I just have to say – I would never wear navy with black. I would almost say it would be better to wear a navy blouse with a red or cream jacket than gray or black. I would have to see the blouse, though, because as Kat said, the tonality is important. The navy I’ve seen a lot of lately seems really dark, almost black. If someone wore that with an actual black it would very much have a “dressed in the dark” feel to it. I totally don’t agree with the salesperson’s advice.

    • Respectfully dissent on the white blouses. I think they look so clean and classic with black and gray suits, and that foundation makes it so easy to add pops of any color with jewelry, scarves, and/or shoes.

    • I really like the “mannish” look that you can get from wearing white with a black suit actually — particularly a black pantsuit with tapered pants and maybe some wing-tip oxfords. It’s very Tilda Swinton (or so I like to think).

      • See, I think what looks good on a movie star walking a red carpet, and what looks good on an average person with an average body walking down an office hall, are two completely different things. I see this a lot, actually – women who think because they saw some look in a magazine or on a TV show that it will work in real life. Maybe the masculine-cut, black suit/white shirt thing looks legitimately great on you or other women you know – who knows – but in my experience, in real life things that look “mannish” on women don’t look “hip-mannish,” they look “harsh-unflattering-intimidating-mannish.” And if Tilda Swinton looks “mannish” that’s part of her thing, who she is, and that’s allowable since she’s an actress. Very different when you are working in an office environment with real people who form impressions pretty fast.

        • I do not at all look mannish in menswear inspired looks. Since I naturally look a bit young and cute because of my hourglass figure and hair and makeup I like to balance that out with menswear looks. If you look really feminine you can pull it off without having anyone think you look harsh or unflattering.

          I bet OP looks great in her menswear looks. If you have the confidence to pull it off, go for it.

    • I like to wear white tanks with black suits — I think it looks very modern.
      I do agree that white top + black bottom can be a bit too waiter-y. I generally don’t; if I do, I add a colorful silk scarf for a belt & maybe a coral necklace. Otherwise, suits only.

    • Mountain Girl :

      The last time I wore a black suit and a white button up oxford my DH told me I looked like I should be working for the Secret Service. I decided he is right and don’t think I have worn a white shirt with a black suit since then.

      • This is always what I think of too – like Men in Black or something. :)

      • I see Secret Service folks on a daily basis and you can always pick out the women by their uniform: white button down shirt, black pantsuit, and sensible low-heeled (often laced) black shoes. Then, perhaps because they aren’t allowed a feminine touch with the rest of their outfit, always a very elaborate updo (all of them seem to have long hair, I’ve noticed) and makeup.

        And of course, their backpack where they keep their weapon.

    • Well we all have our particular preferences now don’t we.

  8. I will almost certainly get flamed for this, but we are talking about someone being paid minimum wage+ to fold sweaters. Unless you’ve established a relationship with a particular clerk, whose style you know and trust and who knows your style and needs, I wouldn’t put too much stock in their advice.

    • Doesn’t mean they don’t know what colors look good together. I often like to remind myself that at one point I worked retail/restaurant jobs–and now I’m a fairly successful lawyer from a top law school. Doesn’t mean I wasn’t that same smart person when I was working those jobs.

      • This is a great point to always keep in mind — well put.

      • Smart, yes, but experienced in corporate wear? Not necessarily.

      • I also remind myself that at one point I worked retail jobs and now I’m a fairly successful lawyer who still can’t put together anything more than “boring and conservative but at least it doesn’t clash” in terms of fashion. There’s no guarantee that just because someone works in retail they know what looks good. Listen to what they suggest, but take everything with a grain of salt. I pity anyone who took my (well-intentioned) fashion advice while I was working at a department store through college!

    • AnonInfinity :

      Even though these people are paid minimum wage (and in this case gave strange advice), I don’t think this is a good generalization at all. The people who work in these stores look at clothes all day and probably think about what would look nice together as they walk around, watch other people try on, pick out clothes for themselves.

      I’ve gotten tons great ideas from the people who work in the stores that I love that I never would have thought of. Those experiences far outnumber the times I’ve gotten shady advice.

    • Anonymous :

      Even if we ascribe higher energy and intention than folding, even if they are ambitious and professional in their retail job– which we have many of us been– that job is to sell stuff. Their training is not in art history, design, feminine semiotics, or color theory. It’s in selling stuff.

      Enjoy their assistance and attention, but don’t factor their input too heavily. Don’t let them answer questions you need to answer– and enjoy answering– yourself. They’re selling stuff. Their confidence in answering is intended to up your confidence in their opinion. And thus, to sell you stuff.

    • I have a niece with a degree in fashion marketing who now works as a buyer for Dillards, she worked retail in college. She has way better taste than most people, I wish I could get her to pick out my outfits, but she’s in Little Rock now, too far away. I wouldn’t assume someone working retail doesn’t have any knowledge of fashion, even professional fashion. You might be surprised.

    • I worked retail for years and no one ever coached us on what was appropriate for certain ages, weights, shapes or careers. I also spent time with plenty of people who worked at other retail stores – they weren’t trained on those things either. The goal is, indeed, to “sell stuff” as PP mentioned.

      I have no doubt that there are educated people working in the retail world, but they are not typically the people slinging the clothes to customers. They are buyers and managers and merchandisers for the most part, and those people are too busy to be giving advice to every customer in the store.

  9. Chi-town Lawyer :

    I agree with Kat and most of the posters. Navy is great with gray, though I would almost never wear it with black unless I were really confident that it projected a deliberate style–like with patent leather and red hints for a U.S Marines kind of vibe. I would wear pretty much any color with grey, though I am struggling with the gray and camel combo seen in the magazines this Winter. I’ve tried it a couple of times, but am not sure if it is reading as colorblind. Does anyone have suggestions for that?

    • When in doubt, tie 2 colors or neutrals together with a print that has both. A scarf, a top, etc. It is also a safe (smart, chic) way to incorporate a third color.

    • Anonymous :

      I agree that the gray/camel combo is a tough one. I love it when it works, and hate it when it doesn’t. I think it is dependent on tone, and perhaps texture. I don’t know if there is a formula for making it work. I just “know it when I see it.”

    • soulfusion :

      no way could I pull that off – I have a mental block against combining anything from the brown/camel/natural category with the black/gray category. I’ve worn black and brown together and felt really awkward all day. Pretty sure this is my own issue but no way could I pull off camel and gray.

      • Alias Terry :

        I am the opposite! I am trying very hard to get myself to wear other colors than some combination that is essentially brown and black. I am having a mental block against being too colorful and thus perceived as frivolous or not business minded. I really am trying to break out of my neutral mold.

  10. Christina :

    I think wearing colors with suits includes lots of different factors such as corporate environment, season, mood, fabric, etc. but the basic thing is that you should like how it makes you feel and look.

    The ladies at AcademicChic have done a great tutorial about color parings and address ideas like wearing red tops with turquoise as you mentioned in your post. http://www.academichic.com/2009/02/02/fashion-101-how-to-combine-colors/

  11. Silky navy fabrics look amazing with black – I think it’s the sort of colour combination that makes one look sophisticated. My rule is jewel tones with black – and it’s especially good if the fabric itself is a bit shiny eg a silky poly or a silk charmeuse. Wth light grey, I choose cooler pastels and mid tones.

  12. I generally don’t like to wear light grey suits with darker colored tops mostly because I’m very tall (5’10 barefoot) and have pale skin and I feel like it looks odd on me… like I’m just one block pale with a darker colored triangle on my chest.

    Threadjack: so I posted last week about the horrible job situation – and this afternoon I have an interview! I’m a little nervous… I got print outs of my resume, the cover letter I sent in, my writing sample I sent in, am wearing my black interview suit (with a plum colored top, black pearl necklace and small, small, small diamond stud earrings). I know approximately where I’m going but will be verifying driving directions in a few min.; I’ve reviewed the NPOs website and have a couple of questions related to the job/interview ready to go (“what as an organization are you most proud of?”, “what do you feel are the top two priorities related to this position?”) . . . what am I missing?

    • Ballerina girl :

      Amp up music, duh. All you need now is to listen to 8 Mile or do some quick shadow boxing in the ladies’ room and you’ll be all set. Good luck!

    • somewherecold :

      Do you have a list of references in case they ask? And your outfit sounds great!

    • Your outfit sounds great. Don’t be nervous and don’t forget how awesome you are!

    • A pack of breath mints and a bottle of water! I would also grab a more professional-looking pen, so I don’t end up stealing my interviewer’s pen or using one with my employer’s logo on it accidentally…

      Maybe business cards?

      • check (mints), check (water) and check (pen).

        thank you ‘rettes! I’m just working on channeling nervous energy into productive energy (reviewing their website some more/getting psyched about some cool project ideas I think the NPO would be into/practicing my rocking out to amp up music in my desk chair skills).

        • As someone who went on an interview, got out the car and had my pen fall and roll under my car (no joke), maybe a back-up pen would be good too. You can learn from my mistakes and not have to think, “do I crouch on all fours of a parking garage to get my pen and risk snagging the hose? Ummm, no.” :) All I had in my car was a give-away pen from a college alumni event complete with our mascot on it! I think your outfit sounds great, and I’m sending good thoughts your way. Do y’all take a portfolio/pad of paper into an interview? I’m thinking of one of those leather-bound things with the paper on the right and a place for documents on the left, (There are 3 in my drawer right now! What the heck are they called??)

          • lol I have a black leather portfolio with back up black plain ball point pens and paper too! but I try not to take too many notes during an interivew.

          • soulfusion :

            I always end up carrying one of those leather portfolios to interviews to hold spare resumes and the like but I have never used it to take notes during the interview. Once, as the interviewer, I had a candidate who took an absurd amount of notes to the point I found it extremely distracting. I chalked it up to the fact that she was a reporter pre-law school but the note taking did get obnoxious.

  13. I just have to share with the corporette world that I finally found nude-for-me pumps! They are actually slingbacks. I ordered a million pairs on the internet, but finally had success when I went into Lord and Taylor, took my tights off in the stock room, and tried on a dozen pairs (they have a ton of options right now). They are Anne Klein, normally a cheaper brand than I buy, but are comfortable. I can’t find a picture but they have an animal skin texture, rather than the patent you are seeing everywhere. I have warm tone, medium colored Caucasian skin. Everything I tried was either too light or too green/grey with the undertone.

    • What an accomplishment! I’m working on the same project right now. (Nude-for-me is a pinkish-ivory.) And your post is very apropos to something I’ve been thinking about: does patent enhance or diminish the “nude” effect? I’ve been assuming that I shouldn’t be buying my nude-for-me shoes in patent.

      • Accountress :

        Please post when you’ve found a shoe that matches you! My cursed (not really) Scottish-German ancestry has left me both wicked pale and pink. I can go through a whole shoe department and not find anything that comes close to my actual skin color…

      • I’m hoping that with “blush” being the color for the season, we will be in luck! A couple weeks back, there was a huge editorial selection on either Endless or PiperLime for blush shoes, including pumps, that seemed promising color-wise. I didn’t end up ordering any because they were all a little tall of heel for me, but it gives me hope that I will find something soon.

    • I just got Ellen Tracy nude-for-me pumps (with a small peep-toe) at DSW. They had a lot of brands of nude pumps that looked great.

      “Rules” about what to wear with what color? Good grief, I’m channeling John Molloy dress-for-success 1980’s. Aren’t we past that? Wear what looks good on you. A pop of color is great.

  14. I love gray and find it much more wearable than black.

    Black makes a statement. It can be perceived as harsh. It can “wear you” if your coloring can’t stand up to it. Gray is equally professional but not so austere and much more complexion friendly for many.

    Those sales clerks were reading from a play book I have never heard of (and I have nearly a dozen books on professional dress/impression management, etc.). IMHO the contrast between the navy and lighter gray would have been a far better choice – but most of my books say the shirt should be lighter than the suit. The all dark look they chose seems depressing, but one could perk it up and tie it together with the right silk scarf.

  15. This may just be me, but I have a hard time pairing a solid, richly colored shirt with a black suit. Something about solid jewel tones, red, etc. up against the black looks very jarring and 80s-era color-blocking to me. I prefer my black suit with a less-saturated solid (such as pastels) or a print.

    • I agree. Wearing a bright raspberry top with black suit now & hate it!
      Damn laundry days!!

      On an aside: same bright raspberry color + navy suit = amazing!

    • Agree. I love color and will wear it with black, but I do find that brighter colors tend to look better with softer neutrals (gray, black). Black can look very harsh against a bright color, particularly on my blonde, fair-skinned self.

      • I really think it all depends on your coloring. I love the way I look in a black suit with a jewel-toned blouse, but the look doesn’t work on everyone.

      • I am blonde/fair and find that black + neutral tends to wash me out a lot more than black with a bright color. I have a neutral skintone, so I tend to look washed out if I don’t wear more saturated colors near my face.

  16. Logically, what Kat said makes sense. But, I have a couple of dark blue shirts (not navy), and I have, several times, thought they would be perfect with one of several of my gray suits, put it on, then glanced in a mirror and found that they looked awful- just overall, way too dark. The same shirt with a black suit- no problem! I don’t get it, but it’s true.

  17. Really? I shouldn’t wear my light grey suit in the winter? Uh-oh…

  18. retail vet :

    Can we please stop the snarking on the employees? I agree that it is strange advice and maybe they were just trying to make a sale, but is it really necessary to comment on their intelligence and background? I had to revert back to retail after the economy tanked and I know others who have as well. Many of the people I worked with were intelligent and knowledgeable human beings who either actually enjoyed their work or were trying to make some extra cash on the side. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt, ok?

    Thanks

    • Another retail vet :

      Thanks for saying that.

    • surrounded by lawyers :

      I’m a retail veteran too, and have taken up the cause on here before. Cheers.

      • I would also add that in law school, and with our interns now, the women (and men) who consistently look professional are ones who it turns out did a stint at BB, BR, AT, etc., at some point in their lives. I think retail experience gives a great leg up to folks in figuring out what business casual,etc., are actually means.

        • It also gives them a good discount. I knew someone who did part-time at AT out of college b/c it was helpful to have the AT discount while building her professional wardrobe. My most fashionable high school teacher worked at BR part-time which, I think, is one of the reasons she was able to afford being so put-together.

    • Alias Terry :

      I am all for a stop to unnecessary berating.

      I can not agree with censoring honest, first hand experience.

  19. Anon Today :

    I have a hard time with an old ann Taylor suit that is black but has teeny tiny gray dots all over it so it somehow reads blue/navy from far away. I never knew what blouse/purse/shoe combo to go with until I got a pair of grey pumps after becoming a regular reader of this site!
    Ok off topic:
    my friends are throwing me a bachelorette party in Vegas soon. Most of the14 people attending will be traveling from far to join us. What is an appropriate way to thank them? Etiquette may say to just send a thank you card, but I would like to do something special. The other issue is that I may not know all othe girls as some people are bringing their friends-so does everyone get the thank you gift or only my friends? Thanks!

    • Christina :

      I think if you are going to do a gift, it should be for everyone that is participating in the bachelorette festivities. Something to commemorate the occasion would be nice, like a themed picture frame (could be Friends or something, doesn’t have to be Vegas but could be). Send it after the weekend with a great picture to remember the trip. Another idea would be a monogrammed keychain for each of the girls you could deliver at the weekend or mail afterwords.

      Going in a different direction, you could arrange for something in everyone’s room when they arrive to make their trip perfect. A little bag with spare shades, sun tan oil/spf lotion, map of vegas, bottle of water, apple, midnight munchies, etc. Is everyone going to wear feather boas or necklaces for your night on the town? Include those as well.

      • This — a Vegas survival kit. I”d also add in aspirin, Alka-seltzer, a nice lip gloss, hair rubberbands . . . The hotel can put them in their rooms before they get there.

      • I went to a bachelorette party in Reno. The other bridesmaid and I put together gift bags with the survival kit stuff and the bride included a cute picture frame. We had a group photo taken at the hotel on our way out for the night and the bride sent everyone thank you notes with a copy of the picture to put in the frame. It was perfect.

    • I did a bag of fun stuff for the attendees to my bachelorette. I included a bottle opener/magnet, good quality lip gloss, and some candy. I feel like I might have added something else, but I can’t remember what.

      I also like Christina’s idea of having stuff they might need be in their rooms. Depends on what you want to spend I think. It really is more the thought than anything else.

      • I made Christmas ornaments for my girls as a party favor. I found big rhinestone ring ornaments, and then attached a little note with the date, event, and theme tagline. I made one for myself too, and I always get a kick out of remembering my party when I’m working on my Christmas tree :) I would say that you should do a favor or note to everyone who participates… if you don’t start out as friends, you’ll most likely be friends by the end of the night!

  20. I have a light gray suit and I wear a navy top with it fairly regularly. Also, a maroon/wine colored top. Both dark tops with light gray.

    But at the risk of being flamed, I can see where the sales associates are coming from.

    Light gray is certainly less formal than black. Thinking back on my outfits, I think the color scheme (light gray with dark top) looks a little dated. It also depends on the weight of the suit. My light gray suit is thin, as though it is meant for summer. I wore it a lot when I worked in Florida, with a jungle green top. It looked great then, but that’s not the sort of outfit I’d wear now that I live in the Northwest (and not in winter).

    If your gray suit is a thicker material, I think you could get away with a darker top.

    But this is her first suit. It’s an interview suit. She shouldn’t be concerned about what she can “get away” with, or what she can “pull off.” I think a first suit should be black, or at least dark gray. Not light gray. This is a suit in which she will be interviewing. That’s not the time for a fashion stretch or statement. Perhaps that’s what the sales associates were going for?

    • Agreed – I had the same initial thought, that black was much better as a “first suit,” and that it was unfortunate she wanted to match a navy shirt, since that would probably look better with a gray suit.

      Also – I don’t think I’ve ever matched a suit to my shirt when purchasing. Suits are such investment pieces, doesn’t it make sense to match the shirt to the suit? Especially since BR suits are generally not that cheap.

    • surrounded by lawyers :

      I think the one caveat re having a black suit for initial interviews is if it makes you look like a vampire. Even fair blondes, I think, can pull it off fine with the right blouse and makeup. But I have black hair and pale skin, and black is incredibly severe on me. I own a few pieces still, but I look the opposite of approachable in a black suit. So for ladies like me, navy or dark charcoal could be better.

      P.S. Lola, I am a fan of yours.

      • (To surrounded by lawyers: Thanks. There are so many negative comments on here. It’s nice to see a good one directed at me personally. This brightened my day. :) )

    • But this is her first suit. It’s an interview suit. She shouldn’t be concerned about what she can “get away” with, or what she can “pull off.” I think a first suit should be black, or at least dark gray. Not light gray. This is a suit in which she will be interviewing.

      Not necessarily; she says she works at a non-profit, so she might just be in a field where suits are rarely worn.

    • I got a job offer at a large government organization having worn a light gray suit, a light blue floral scarf, leather black pumps, and my nicest black leather bag. I am pretty sure I looked very proper, and I certainly wasn’t making many fashion statements, other than possibly dressing older than my age. If anything, I looked much more put together and polished at that interview than many of the other similarly aged women I saw, who were very hung up on the ‘it must be a black suit’ business and just ended up looking sloppy because they were too hung up on ‘it must be a black suit’ instead of really concentrating on their *overall* look and aesthetic. To them, they had worn their black suits and thus were obviously fine- they didn’t need to think about cut, quality, the colors they were pairing with, and all that, because by golly, they had their black suit on and so they were perfectly good to go.

      Sure, telling somebody that a dark suit is a good place to start for interview wear is fine, but saying anything but a black suit is inappropriate, I think, can provide much more bad direction/advice than it might seem.

      • I agree. I actually would recommend someone to buy a charcoal suit for an interview suit. It’s different enough to get noticed, but still conservative.

Add a comment.

Questions? Check out our commenting policy. Tech problems? Please report it to the tech team.