Cheap Suits: How Low Can You Go?

Reader K asks about the merits of cheap suits for women…

I’m in the process of changing from a career where pajamas are appropriate work attire to something more “professional” and need all the help I can get. I have been shopping for an interview suit (my first ever and I am almost 40!) and am not sure how to weigh quality vs cost. My clothes budget has been limited to a few t-shirts, a pair of jeans, and maybe a sweater per year so I am unaccustomed to spending a significant amount of money on clothes. I have been browsing at discount stores like Ross, Marshalls, and Kohls to try and find my interview suit for under $100. However, the more I read your blog the more I am wondering if I should suck it up and spend $200-300 on a suit that is wool from a store like Ann Taylor or Banana Republic. Aside from the fact that a well made wool suit will last longer than a synthetic Calvin Klein suit from Ross, do you think there is a significant visual difference? I figure that if my cheap suit works for the interview I can always invest in quality clothes once I have a job that pays more. However, the last thing I want is for the interviewer to think “damn, that’s a cheap suit!”. Any advice?

Great, great question, and I think we should expand the discussion to the differences between LOTS of different price ranges. (The pictured suit is actually not a cheap one, but rather an expensive one — I’ve just been looking for an excuse to share it with you guys without recommending it.  Tee hee.) Here’s my take: [Read more...]

Suit of the Week

Wool Donegal JacketFor busy working women, the suit is often the easiest outfit to throw on in the morning. In general, this feature is not about interview suits, which should be as classic and basic as you get — instead, this feature is about the slightly different suit that is fashionable, yet professional.

Loving the simple, classic look of this Brooks Brothers suit. Great three-quarter length sleeves; great A-line skirt. We’d pair it with an understated brooch and earrings, perhaps — the mandarin collar already does a great job of directing focus to the face.  The jacket (Wool Donegal Jacket) is $298 (available in petites as well, Petite Wool Donegal Jacket), and the skirt is $188 (Wool Donegal Skirt) (also available in petites, Petite Wool Donegal Skirt).

Wool Donegal Jacket Wool Donegal Skirt

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Suit of the Week

kasper womens suitFor busy working women, the suit is often the easiest outfit to throw on in the morning. In general, this feature is not about interview suits, which should be as classic and basic as you get — instead, this feature is about the slightly different suit that is fashionable, yet professional.

This week, we’re liking this checkered black suit from Kasper.  We like the simplicity of it, save for the interesting button detail on the pockets.  We’d probably visit a tailor to see if he or she could make the back of the jacket a bit more fitted — but otherwise, great, simple suit.  It was $240 but is now on sale for $99 at Smart Bargains, available in sizes 6-18.   Kasper Black Birdseye Skirt Suit

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Corporette 101: The Old Mirror Trick

chair and mirror 007Whenever you have a seriously important professional day — for example, an interview — you need to be wearing your most conservative, “notice my brains not my fashion sense” outfit. This means, unfortunately, that you need to be sure you know how the suit you wear looks from all angles. How does it look if you need to reach across a table or desk to point to something? How does it look from the back — is there a slit in the skirt that goes too high? And finally — deathly important for interviews — how does your skirt suit look when you’re sitting down? Can you cross your legs, or do you show too much thigh?

Most women are well acquainted with checking their outfit out in the mirror before they run out the door, but for interview outfits you need to go even further. Pull a chair over to a full-length mirror and sit down in it — note how high your skirt goes when you sit. If you think you might be stooping at all during the day (to pick up papers or materials on the floor), do that as well. Basically, any possible action you might take during the day should be vetted between you and the mirror, to make sure you won’t be embarrassed.

Suit of the Week

For busy working women, the suit is often the easiest outfit to throw on in the morning. In general, this feature is not about interview suits, which should be as classic and basic as you get — instead, this feature is about the slightly different suit that is fashionable, yet professional.

2 Piece Satin Tweed Suit With Skirt, Ships 6/15
This cotton skirt suit is simple, wearable, and just slightly preppy — the small “cactus stripe” running through it reminds us of men’s seersucker suits.  To make things even better, it’s on sale — was $240, now $160.  (And, apparently through 9/07, and get free shipping on $100 or more.)  It’s available in sizes 4 through 16.   2 Piece Cactus Stripe Jacket And Skirt Suit

Reader Mail: Can I Wear a Longer Skirt to an Important Court Appearance?

Austin Reed skirt suitWe’ve been thinking about this question since we first read it…

I have an important court appearance coming up. I will be arguing an appeal on a fairly significant issue. I have been wearing pants for years to trial. But are they appropriate before the more conservative court of appeals? Also, I have terrible legs (calves and ankles mainly ). Got them from my mom. I have always been insecure about them (thus the pants). Are there any suits out there with longer skirts. I don’t ever see them anymore. Are such skirts hopelessly out of style?

Obviously, long skirts had their heyday a while ago (we’re guessing at least 15 years) — but we remember thinking it was very chic when a friend of ours in law school wore a suit with one (about seven years ago, admittedly).  In fact, the only skirt suit we could find that looked vaguely acceptable was this Austin Reed skirt suit, available at Overstock.com (size 4 only).  If you have a longer skirt suit, or you can find one, we’d say go ahead and wear it if you’re comfortable in it — the people who really care whether you’re in a skirt suit will be sated by the longer skirt, and the people who don’t care what you wear — well, they won’t care.  And you, you’ll be comfortable.

Otherwise… you’re in a tough spot.  Obviously, appellate judges should be intelligent enough to see past a pantsuit (gasp!) and listen to the merits of an argument.  But, then again, we know of at least one federal judge — blind! — who made his clerks tell him if a woman lawyer was wearing a skirt suit or not when she appeared before him.  That’s how important it was to him.  So, regrettably, our advice to you is  that if your gut is telling you to wear a skirt suit, then wear a skirt suit — after all, you are an advocate for a client and this issue is bigger than you.  And it’s only one day (not even the whole day!) and, hopefully, you can find a suit that has both pants, a skirt, and a jacket, so the purchase isn’t a total bust.

Readers — if you have any different advice, please weigh in.  (Or, if you’ve seen any long skirt suits, please let us know!)