The Hunt: Interview Suits

Stylish Interview SuitsSure, we all know what basics professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.

It’s almost time for thousands of law students and MBA students around the planet: interview week! We of course have the Guide to Women’s Suits for general advice, and we pick an interesting women’s suit once a week — but we haven’t rounded up interview suits in a while (charcoal suits in 2013, navy suits in 2012). There are, of course, a few Hall of Famers to note in this category:  Banana Republic’s lightweight wool suiting, Ann Taylor’s triacetate suiting, J.Crew’s Super 120s suiting,  Theory’s stretch wool suiting — in addition to those classics, below are the first six suits I’d try if I were looking to buy a classic, basic interview suit in today’s market.

Readers, do you have any favorite suits that are classic enough for interviewing? What’s your favorite budget suiting line — and your favorite splurge suiting line?

stylish interview suits

Pictured above:

  1. If you’re really on a budget, I’d try the well-reviewed suiting line at Chadwicks. With a matching sleeveless sheath dress, pants, and skirt, there are a lot of options, and I like that the suit comes in regular, petite, and plus sizes. I’d stick with black, navy, or gray for interviewing, but it’s also available in khaki, white, and a pinstriped blue. The blazer is $35-$55, the pants are $39.99, the skirt is $19-$40, and the sheath is $40. Suiting Separates
  2. This highly-rated jacket from The Limited has a matching skirt and three matching pants (bootcut and flare) — nice! I also like that the suit is available in regular and petite, in navy, gray, and khaki. Selected pieces are on sale, so the jacket is $49.99-$94.80, the skirt is $59.90, and the pants are $39.99-$79.95 — use code NIGHT to take 50% off everything (and get free shipping). Navy Collection Slanted Pocket Suit
  3. I’m increasingly impressed by Nordstrom’s affordable Halogen brand, even for suiting. This basic suit, available in black and navy, looks like a great possibility for interviews, and I like that it’s available in regular and petite in sizes 0-16. The blazer is part of the Anniversary Sale (see my workwear picks here), and is currently marked to $84.90 — it’ll go back up to $128 after the sale. The matching pencil skirt is on sale for $41.40, and the matching pants are on sale for $47-$49. Halogen Suit Separates
  4. Gray is a less popular color for interview suits than black or navy, but it’s been gaining ground in recent years. This dark gray set is from one of my favorite affordable lines, Anne Klein at Macy’s. There’s also a petite version of the same suit, and matching pants. The blazer is $129, and the pants are $99. Gray Suit Separates Collection
  5. This stretch suit jacket and pencil skirt from Classiques Entier create that rare suit: classic enough to wear to an interview, but with enough interesting details to make everyone else jealous. I love the diagonal seams and slit on the skirt (make sure you do the mirror test before your interview!), and all the seaming on the jacket. I also like that many of the pieces are available in sizes 2-16. (There is a matching fit and flare dress and zippered ankle pants, neither of which I would wear to an interview in a conservative industry, but that’s me — they’d be great to have for more casual suit situations.) The jacket is $298, and the skirt is $188. Black “Jolie” Suit
  6. Maybe it’s me, but I feel like there are a million Hugo Boss stores everywhere I go in NYC — and I’m always swooning over the beautiful fabrics, cuts, and intricate details. If I were upgrading from a previous interview suit, or had some money to spend (and knew I’d wear it for a few years), their black tropical wool suiting would be my first pick. The jacket is $595, and the matching pants and skirt are both $250. Also in this price range: this lovely black suiting from Reiss (with the, er, helpful suggestions from Bloomingdale’s to wear it with strappy sandals and a clutch “big enough to hold your tablet for the big presentation.” Pictured: Black Tropical Wool Suit

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Comments

  1. When I was lookeing for a job, my dad told me NEVER to look cheap, and he took me to Lord and Taylor to get the BEST designer suit’s. I got a NAVY BLUE suit and a GRAY suit, which I realy do NOT use to much, but they are VERY conservative and show virtueally NOTHING to peeople like Frank that are alway’s peekeing to see what they can find! FOOEY on Frank. He has a wife, so why are other peeople’s tuchuses so interesting to him? He even ooogeles Madeline, and she is NOT even very attractive, tho she doe’s have a boyfreind now that come’s over to the office that know’s the manageing partner. I think they may even have sex, which I think is great for them, but he is no bargan either.

    So for the JD and MBA student’s lookeing for interview suits, always go to the finest places. Even place’s like Brook’s Brothers and Joseph P. Bank’s for MEN’s stuff. Alan went there and when he dressed up, he did NOT look like such a schlub. That is all you can hope for. To be treated seriusley. Best of luck to all you new grad’s! I hope you all get GREAT job’s! YAY!!!!!!

  2. This suit is advertised that you’ll “nail that interview” and it’s been featured on this blog recently
    http://www.zappos.com/dsquared2-s75bn0376-s42923-001f-white-black?si2749486=&channel=201&mr:referralID=57e0c1b9-0b86-11e4-8bdb-001b2166c2c0

  3. I’m well past the interviewing stage but I have the Halogen suit in both black and navy and really like it. The jackets run small; I usually wear a 12 or 14 (all of my AT suit jackets and blazers are 12 , for example) but I had to get the 16 petite in the Halogen — the only size 16s in my closet, I’m tempted to cut out the labels.

    BTW, the navy is very dark, almost a black.

    • Halogen Suiting :

      I have a Halogen suit. Beware that the sleeves / armholes on the jacket can be weird (like I can’t move my arms enough to drive or type on a keyboard). I found one that works for me, but I ordered 3. The Taylor pants have been amazing for my pear-ish bottom half.

  4. If you want a suiting dress plus matching blazer, I highly recommend this one –

    https://www.jcrew.com/womens_category/suiting/dresses/PRD~A7411/A7411.jsp?Nbrd=J&Nloc=en_US&Nrpp=48&Npge=1&Ntrm=KELSEY&isSaleItem=false&isFromSearch=true&isNewSearch=true&hash=row0

    I’m tall, and the tall is actually a long length. Sleeves and a suitable neckline. I do find that the coordinating blazer is a bit too long, so I actually have this in a tall dress and a petite blazer in order to balance out the proportions.

    • Gorgeous! I’ll watch for that to go on sale. I don’t wear a lot of J. Crew (too expensive for the quality, in my opinion) but I’m also tall and do a similar tall dress + petite blazer thing a lot since I think shorter blazers look better with dresses.

    • Wildkitten :

      Do the shoulders not get out of control with the sleeve puff plus the matching blazer?

  5. I finally made it to a Limited recently and was really surprised by how incredibly clingy their suits were. Maybe it’s the two that I tried on, but I would size up and proceed with caution.

    • AnonInfinity :

      I’ve had great experience with the Limited suits. They certainly don’t look like posh suits, but they get the job done for me. I do get a size larger than I usually get at AT or BR or the like.

      • I think sizing up would be the way to go. I also think it added to my problem that I tried on a summer suit which was in a thinner fabric than what I imagine they’d use for more traditional suits so the clinginess was magnified.

      • I’ve also had good luck with the Limited for suits. At the very least, they’ve held up much better than the BR suit I bought around the same time.

  6. anon-oh-no :

    on the hugo boss one, I just ordered all of the pieces (dress, skirt, slacks, jacket) from the NAS and they are fantastic. Plus, the sale right now is very good — probably $800 total instead of $1500

  7. Anonymous :

    There is nothing better that a Theory suit. If you have the body for it, of course. But it looks sharp and expensive and fits better than anything else on the market.

    • Ugh – I absolutely love their stuff, but I cannot fit in their jackets to save my life. The size 12 is way too too tight. Such a bummer because their size 8 pants fit me great. Sadz.

    • TO Lawyer :

      Does this still hold true given that the suits are polyester now and no longer 100% wool?

      • I like the wool-poly blend just fine. It holds its shape but it still feels substantial and not overly synthetic. It also resists wrinkling. But I don’t know how far back the suits were 100% wool; I’ve had my first one for 5 years and it’s definitely a stretch wool, so it can’t be 100%. The other knock on the suits is the unlined pants, which is not a problem for me, either. I really hate the feel of acrylic liners and don’t want to pay for silk-lined pants. Plus, lining stretch-fabric pants sort of defeats the purpose, IMO.

        Anyway, my basic black Theory suit is my “power” suit. And I get a ton of use out of the blazer as a separate.

        • Stretch wool can indeed be 100% wool. Wool itself is naturally stretchy, and a particular weave can add more stretch. Most stretch wools have spandex or nylon added, but not all.

    • I think this used to be true but the quality of Theory has greatly deteriorated over the past few years. Some of their suits look no better than what you can buy at Banana Republic.

      To the list of interview suits, I’d add the separates available at department stores. They’re a great option for those who need different sizes for jackets than bottoms.

  8. Ciao, pues :

    I almost never wear a black suit. It looks so severe! I much prefer navy or brown and would choose those over black for an interview.

  9. I took a look at the Anne Klein suit and looked at the size chart. There’s no way that can be right! I wear a 16 or maybe a 14 on a skinny day/generous brand. According to that size chart, to get the right waist size, I’d have to size down to a 4! My hip and bust measurements line up with a 10. That’s insane. Vanity sizing is one thing but wow. Anyone have any experience with this brand? Does it really run that big?

    • Abby Lockhart :

      I own the suit pictured, and another AK platinum suit. I get compliments on both (from people in my office who usually wear much more expensive brands of suits) and feel good in them, FWIW. AK sizing is definitely the biggest sizing in my wardrobe, and this particular suit runs bigger than my other one from AK. But I am in your size range, and I only sized down one size. I have a fairly straight or proportional, rather than hourglass, figure, and a broad chest (sigh). Maybe try a 12.

    • Cady Heron :

      Whoa. That’s insane sizing. A 37″ bust = size 0?

    • The size chart on Anne Klein’s website is completely different than the one on the Macy’s site.

    • That is nutso! That chart wants me to be a six. I haven’t worn a six since I *was* six.

    • Anonymous :

      I refuse to believe that size chart isn’t a typo. It says my bust and waist are size 4 but my hips are my usual size 14. No way that’s right.

      • I think the whole chart is in error. I find Anne Klein to be sized similarly to my other mace’s misses type stuff (INC, NY and Co, etc). I size down 1 size from my usual (BR, ann taylor, j crew etc) sizing.
        So, I wear a 6-8 in those, usually can get a 4-6 in anne klein. I do have a 37″ bust and I wear a 4-6. SO that chart is wrong. I’d size down one size from your usual.

      • Red Beagle :

        With AK, I did find that the couple of sheath dresses I bought in my usual size (10) fit fine on top but were miles too big in the hips. My hips and chest are not that different in size (about an inch smaller in the hips) but I had to have the dress taken in significantly in the hips, about 2 sizes or more. So the sizing is pretty much TTS for the top, funky on bottom, IME.

  10. Plus size options! :

    Plus size options:

    The Halogen suits are called “Sejour” in sizes 14W and up, there is a “Charcoal Crosshatch” and “New Ela”.
    http://shop.nordstrom.com/sr?origin=keywordsearch&contextualcategoryid=2375500&keyword=sejour+suit

    Jones New York also has options at Macy’s and at JNY.com : http://www.jny.com/Plus-Size-Suit-Separates/22962208,default,sc.html I think the “Platinum Washable Wool” in Midnight or Black is probably the best option.

    Finally, higher price range: Talbots Seasonless wool. Right now neither jacket is great. I’d go with this one. http://www.talbots.com/online/browse/product_details.jsp?zoomImage=42079091&id=prdi33231&rootCategory=cat70012&catId=cat80022&sortKey=Default&section=Regular&conceptIdUnderSale=cat70012&rootConcept=Woman

  11. To the short and hourglassy, let me enthusiastically recommend Tahari ASL’s two-button jacket skirt suits. Skirt was the perfect length on me (I’m 5’2″ with a 28″ inseam) without tailoring, and the cut of the suit didn’t make me look like I was trying to either hide or display my 34DD bust. Conservative without being stodgy and actually flattering. It’s like magic.

  12. When I started job hunting after a long stint with one employer, I spent mega-bucks on an interview suit, shoes, etc. I’ve gotten plenty of wear out of it, but the outfit that got me the job was a jacket (light purple, textured) , shell (black) and pants (black) from Macy’s, all on clearance for <$100 total. I had a major freakout before the in-person interview because it was in a manufacturing facility and the chances were good that we'd be touring the plant. Mega-bucks interview suit was fine for an office setting, but things like slippery surfaces and the possibility of ladders were well out of its scope. Enter Macy's. I went there to try on the Everyday Value suiting that I heard about here, but ended up doing one better on the clearance rack in terms of look, fit and price, and I got the job.

    • Wildkitten :

      But it’s always nice to have a mega-bucks power suit in your closet for when you need to present at a conference, or intimidate men, or cancel comcast, or something.

    • Red Beagle :

      My less than $200-ish CK classic navy blue suit that I bought years ago at Macy’s was with me through several job interviews that resulted in getting the job. I wore it until the lining was in shreds, then bought another one that I still have and it’s my go-to for days I want to feel dressy (biz casual office). Yes, polyester, but a really nice drape and good value for the $$.

  13. I began in a solely administrative role. 6 months into my job, I volunteered to help manage my employer’s social media platform and blog. Fast forward a year, I single handedly manage our social media platforms and blog. I briefly spoke with my direct manager about a title change and she asked me to track how much time I contribute to managing our online presence. I conducted a quick Google search and came across some interesting programs like Toggl. How do you all recommend I track my time? Any feed back is appreciated!

    • Wildkitten :

      Most people on this s!te who track their time do so in 6 minute intervals for billing purposes. Toggl seems great. I like the emergent task planner http://davidseah.com/blog/node/the-emergent-task-planner/ which you can use to track for 30 minute intervals and you can print it for free. Your manager probably only wants to know what % of time you are spending on the social media part of your job, so a 6 minute timer would be overkill.

      • Wildkitten :

        In moderation again. The emergent task planner is free and good for tracking 30 min intervals. Lawyers track 6 min intervals for billing, which is probably overk!ll if your boss just wants to know the % of time you are on social media.

    • I use toggl and love it. It really helps me make sure I’m spending my time on key priorities.

  14. I love J Crew’s blazers but the skirts and pants – no. They wrinkle terribly and don’t have enough of a heft to sit well, even after tailoring. My go-to formal suit for interviews or board meetings is a black T Tahari with a pencil skirt that I bought two years ago at Lord & Taylor. I had it tailored to fit well, and I have a Calvin Klein black sheath that also goes well with the jacket for my 2nd interview. My navy J Crew I rarely wear because of the wrinkle issue.

    My issue though is that I really need a washable black sleeveless sheath. I love my CK sheath but it costs nearly $20 to dry clean and I get at most 2 wears because of white deodorant marks (even with clear deo). Any suggestions for a true black simple elegant sheath that is washable? I’ve looked for a ponte knit or something like that but no luck.

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