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.


  1. This is good advice for shopping as well. Find a chair/bench in a dressing room to check how clothes look/feel/wrinkle while sitting down. Also, tightly scrunching a handful of fabric for a few seconds before releasing can help check how much a fabric wrinkles. This is, of course, in addition to reading the labels for fabric content.

  2. Also good for TV interviews. Sometimes the neckline of a shirt rests at a different place when seated than it does when standing.

  3. housecounsel :

    Have a good friend stand behind you, too. I’ll never forget seeing a colleague in a very short Ally MacBeal skirt reach up to hand something to a judge on the bench. The courtroom was full and she put on quite a show. Another time, an associate in a similar skirt leaned way over her desk, giving the IT guys an eyeful.

    As the senior associate/junior partner/big sister of the office, I took it upon myself to gently suggest a longer skirt . . .

    OH! Have you ever seen someone in a dress that is substantially longer in front than in back? Matte jersey wrap dreses and curvy bodies sometimes have this effect. I see women who probably looked fine to themselves when they checked the mirror that morning, but the rear view is not so fine.

  4. Delta Sierra :

    Good advice happening here! To add my bit: when you need to pick something up off the floor, or from a lower drawer: bend your knees, not your waist, so you’re not putting on any inadvertent shows.

  5. While I think it’s a good idea to check how one’s outfit looks from behind and even to sit to make sure, I think the tone of this entry is a little frenetic and paranoid.

  6. I enjoy reading Corporette for advice on fashion; I do not think that is shallow. And I do realize we should all dress as professionally as our means, bodies, etc. allow. Also, I do worry about inane details of my outfits and appearance. That said, I’d have hoped we’d (women) have moved on from judging fellow women on how “fine” their “rear view” looked at work. Drapy dresses can stick to lumps and bumps; for whatever reason, fashion articles constantly exhort “curvy” (which can mean almost anything) women to wear jersey wrap dresses. As a size in the, cough, double digits (i.e., over an 8), with, yes, a large rear end, I long ago learned that ON ME, jersey and wrap are not flattering. I honestly have no idea how they look on anyone else nor do I care. If someone leaves the house feeling put together, and her rear end is not actively exposed, nor her “rear view” indecent because of, e.g., a skirt that is simply inappropriately short, why does it matter if her skirt rides up a bit in back? I am trying to figure why we, as women, still feel the need to judge other women on looks or body type or style. Don’t get me wrong, I like reading about, for example, the correct way of wearing garments; it is when the issue seems to devolve into judging that I begin to be dismayed.

    • Thanks for this post, AC.

    • I couldn’t agree more. I also feel like in certain parts of the country, women are less concerned about this than elsewhere. In my part of Florida, people are much more casual dressers and it is possible to go too conservative for the area- e.g. if you show up in your conservative black suit in the heat of summer, people are going to wonder what’s wrong with you. Even though linen may not look pristine throughout the day, I don’t feel like anyone here gets judged for a wrinkly linen suit because it makes more sense in this season.

  7. I don’t think it’s a matter of judging so much as of feeling if it were me, I’d want to know, and in an effort to help someone else prevent further embarrassment who you have a friendly relationship with, why wouldn’t you pull her aside and say “hey, I am sure you have no idea but that skirt seems to ride up a bit from behind when you reach up” or whatever. It’s like when someone’s fly is down — wouldn’t you tell her? That’s not judging, it’s a matter of watching out for each other. Besides, from a purely selfish perspective, when the guys in the room are staring at a woman’s rear end they aren’t viewing her as a professional colleague. And that isn’t good for any of us.

    • exactly. as much as we should not be so judgmental, we should also not get so worked up and give each other the benefit of the doubt.

  8. Good tips – there might be something you miss!

  9. I agree with Delta Sierra. Bending from the knees is, incidentally, also better for your spine.

    Personally whenever I need to see how I look I take out a video camera. I’ve got one on my photocamera that is pretty good, if not, I can always borrow mom’s. The thing is that in the mirror you just don’t look the same way as you do to the naked eye. A videocamera captures things a little better, and gives a lot more angles to look at.

  10. (As in, whenever I need to see how I look for something big. I don’t take out a video camera just to put on my eye shadows of course)

  11. @AC – until we can be sure that _no one_ is judging or noticing, whether the rear view is fine or not will matter. “Fine” doesn’t mean having a swimsuit model rear, either… I don’t think housecounsel’s point was based on what size you are or whether you’re having a momentary clinging problem, but instead that a dress that looks work-appropriate from the front might be, unbeknownst to you, too short viewed from the rear.

    and even if not inappropriately short from the rear, I wouldn’t feel polished in a dress that rode up in the back, and would rather be aware of the problem and avoid it.

    good point on checking the crossed legs. Especially for wrap dresses, you might discover you need a slip or risk exposure when the front of the wrap slides off!

  12. I agree with Cat, I’m fairly sure that housecounsel’s comment was not really about judging a person’s size, but just about how a larger rear might make the skirt shorter in back than in front. I’ve been following this blog for a while, albiet quietly. Generally I find that the women writing here are supportive of each other and women as a whole. I am early in my professional career and as one of few women at management level in my company, there are very few women to look to for guidance in terms of dressing appropriately. I really appreciate the information, opinions, and advice that I find here.

  13. I probably didn’t explain well; my comment was somewhat prompted by housecounsel, but not directly in response to hers. It just made me think of the posts/comments I’ve read about, e.g., how outdated/unpolished women who wear pants whose hem hits above the vamp or too low on the heel look, or women who wear collars outside their jacekts look. I didn’t really take housecounsel’s comment as a size indictment, either; I more meant, if a skirt is slightly shorter in back (say, 1″ or 2″) than in front, due to a sticky-outy rear end, chances are, the wearer knows it, but what can she do? Buy a size up, perhaps, but some fabrics lend themselves to riding up. If I were wearing it, I’d hope everyone would just sort of let it go; I wouldn’t know what to say if someone “helpfully” told me my short was shorter in the back than the front! Women, even non-mothers, have a lot to go through to get to work; add in kids, and we are lucky if we are covered decently. As I said, I DO enjoy reading about fashion, and DO think everyone should be work-appropriate, but every outfit is not going to hit it out of the park everyday. The miniskirt issue I won’t touch, really, because I agree with it. However, I tend to think women who wear super-short, Allie McBeal-length skirts already know they are showing a lot of leg. It’s not for me (that style) but some carry it off I suppose.

  14. Ha, I bet none of those guys were complaining about the show. It seems Americans are just so much more afraid of showing skin at work. Until that changes I guess we just need to conform. I spent some time in Spain and all the professional women there wore really low cut shirts and the pants were way tighter in the rear than we would wear here. In Asia, the tops were just as conservative as here but women wore really short skirts with their suits and major heels and no one blinked an eye.

    While in Asia I started talking to a lady that worked in my hotel and she said that no one really cared what the guys thought about their outfit. It would be worse to look like you have Hillary Clinton syndrome. To which I replied “huh?” And she said that it is really looked down upon to try to “be a man” in the way you dress. You can still dress like a woman and do a good job.

    Anyway, I hope some day professional women in America can embrace their femininity and rock the pink and heels and short skirts and big jewelry – maybe even some cleavage. But I think what keeps us from ever getting there is each other. We don’t want to be judged by other women or have people think we are not “serious” about our work.

    I honest to God had another women tell me that it was unprofessional of me to use pink post it notes. I liked that when I walked into someones office I could immediatly identify the document I left them in a sea of yellow on their desk by my pink note on an otherwise business as usual document. I decided to ignore her advice and continue using my pink notes.

    But honestly, could you see a man chastizing another man if he used a blue post it?

    • “I bet none of those guys were complaining about the show” – you are most probably correct. But they also weren’t paying any attention to her work product. I’d rather be known for the job that I do than for my legs in a short skirt.

  15. Delta Sierra :

    The judgment thing. I feel that Corporette and its commenters help me avoid the inevitable judgment my clothes will elicit out there in the workplace.

    In an ideal world, what we wear would not matter. In the world we actually inhabit, people do judge us by our clothing choice, drawing from it all kinds of conclusions that may or may not be valid.

    Via Corporette I benefit from the experience of all the women who take the time to write in and share their opinions.

    Sure I’d love to meet a prospective client (I’m a private library consultant) in a flashy suit with a vivid shirt and amazing shoes, if that’s what I felt like wearing that day. But I do not want to have to deal with those people’s reaction. I just want to get on with business. The meeting MUST be about the business, not the clothes. People are easily distracted.

    So I read this website to find out what’s going on out there in the rag trade, and edit my costume – we’re all playing a role the moment we step outside our front door – for that day’s events.

  16. B – I was just playing w/ that comment – hence the “ha” – obviously I would rather be known for my work product as well.

  17. Elizabeth :

    Why would our clothes not matter in an ideal world? The picture we choose to present to others communicates things about us just as much as our words, work, actions, etc.

    And the real solution to whether or not one’s skirt is too short for an interview is….wear pants.

  18. The fix to a “sticky-out” rear-end or stomach that helps a skirt ride up in the front or back is tailoring. Wear your problem skirt/dress to the tailor. The tailor will even the hem for your body by measuring from the floor, e.g. the finished even hem will be 24 inches from the ground.

    A good tailor is one of a well-dressed women’s hidden secrets. I have almost every work outfit tailored including:
    *Shirt and blouse shoulders taken up 2 inches,
    *pants/skirt waistband taken in 1 – 2 inches,
    * Skirts hemmed to just above knee length (good length for my height/body)
    *Pants hemmed to fall correctly when wearing an exact shoe height.
    *Rear pockets removed and sewn shut. (Like I need more bulk there:)

    Other great fixes include:
    *Placing bra strap holders in sleeveless tops,
    *Adding hidden snaps above top shirt buttons that match the fabric – to hide cleavage/prevent gapping
    *Shortening shirts/blouses that will not be tucked in to fall at exactly the right place on my upper hit.
    *Taking in too-blousy/empire waist tops in closer to my curves.
    * Moving self-belt loops in dresses to the my natural waistline.

    Cheap? No. Worth it? Every dime.

  19. Just want to chime in to say it is TOTALLY untrue that its only judgmental/superficial women keeping other women back. At my law firm, it is hard enough to be taken seriously as a woman who dresses professional– the girls who dress in 3-4″ patent leather peep toe pumps and geometric print tunic dresses are definitely treated even worse by senior males.

  20. What works well under a suit jacket besides a button-down for someone who is busty?

  21. housecounsel :

    I am horrified to think that anyone might have taken my comment as judgmental of women based on their size. I should have been clear that I have one of those “curvy” bodies (dress size 10 if a full skirt, 12 if a straight skirt) and because of that I am especially conscious of how dresses and skirts look from the back. I am the mother of daughters and survivor of years of food/body image issues, and would never judge a woman based on size.

    I’m not saying that I am never judgmental. If a female associate is wearing a super-short skirt, I do tend to conclude that she is more interested in showing off her legs than her brain. If opposing counsel (male or female) looks sloppy and unkempt, I draw certain conclusions about their level of preparation and yes, success.

    I’m sorry if anyone was offended.

  22. housecounsel: I think we are closer on this issue than I thought. I think this type of “dialogue” is good though. Sorry for the little tiny firestorm.

    Y: I actually think MOST buttondowns are among the least forgiving, most difficult look under a jacket for busty women (from my own experience), since even if they fit, they may gap @ “that” part. There are some brands that fit ok off the rack (Foxcroft at Nordstrom, for instance) that accomodate chests w/darts in the shirt. There is a website that sells buttondowns that close w/ hook-and-eyes for c/d/dd cups (I can’t remember the name…). But you really may find soft knits/silk sweaters w/ a crew or high v-neck look better. Also a sleeveless silk shell w/a slight scoopneck tends to look good I think. Talbots has one on sale online in apple green now. Their sale items are 50% further off this weekend.

  23. For those looking for button-down shirts that fit a fuller bust, take a look at Bratique Helene ( . In addition to tailored tops and wrap blouses, they carry a very nice shirtwaist dress.

    If you wear a plus-size, check out the San Francisco boutique, Harper Greer ( Beautiful fabrics, interesting designs and great service.

  24. EverSince :

    Human beings have been proven to be more likely to vote for, co-operate with, and hire other humans beings that they find attractive. That good-looking man in your office will garner subtle advantages because of how his suit flatters his broad shoulders and, of course, for his handsome face. We must not pretend that this does not go on just because, for us women, it has often and easily slipped off into sexual harassment and discrimination territory. I agree with a previous poster who described how women in other countries embrace their femininity in the workplace. We need to grab it and harness it to our advantage, and stop cowering from it. Our beauty is actually a huge benefit to us that we’ve allowed “the system” to denigrate to the point that we’re now treating it as a liability – and teaching other women to do the same. While yes, I’d rather a co-worker notice the product of my work than my legs, the fact is, if he is male and has a heart beat, he is going to notice the legs. Let’s face that fact and consider it another tool in our shed (or weapon in our arsenal) rather than trying to unrealistically force it out of existence.

  25. Here’s an interview horror story for your entertainment:

    The attire was business-casual. Thus, I purchased a nice brown linen open-front jacket, a button-down white blouse, and dark wash denim trousers, w/a super-nice gold/croco belt and a gold necklace. The blouse was not transparent at all, so I opted not for a camisole. Halfway through the interview, I looked down to see that a blouse button OVER MY STOMACH had come undone and was pulling apart, exposing a pasty roll of flab beneath. Oh, the horror. And I buttoned it up right in front of my interviewers. What else to do? When I returned to my car, I saw in my reflection on the auto glass, it was unbuttoned AGAIN! I did not get the job.