Polls on hose, and thoughts on other interview accessories

What Kind of Hose Should You Wear to an #Interview? | CorporetteToday’s reader mail comes with a ton more of questions about interviewing…

I’m a 3L and have an interview next week with a panel of district court judges for a judicial clerkship. I have a few questions with regards to my upcoming interview:

1.) I (and the interview) are in the Midwest, so it’s cold and snowy outside. I am planning on wearing a black skirt suit and am wondering if it’s appropriate to wear black tights with my suit? Or would pantyhose (off-black) be more professional?

2.) What do I do about a coat? Is it ok to wear a wool coat over my suit? I’m not sure if there will be anywhere to hang it or leave it once I get to the courthouse. Or should I just leave it in the car and just suck it up during the walk to the courthouse from my car?

3.) What about a purse? All I’m planning on bringing with me are copies of my resume, writing sample, etc. so I don’t necessarily need a large bag, but I don’t know if it’s unprofessional to bring my purse and carry the paperwork in a leather portfolio.

Good luck on the interview!  We’ll go through all of your questions…

First, on tights — this keeps coming up, and so we’re going to run some polls today.  Our default answer, previously, was that off-black pantyhose should be worn with a dark skirt suit.  However, readers in the past have disagreed with us, saying nude/sheer is more appropriate (check out their suggestions for the best brands in the comments here). We’ve also heard of folks who hate tights with a suit (which we also disagree with — tights, to us, are fine for any day when you’re NOT interviewing or something similar).   So, without further ado:

best pantyhose for dark suit

In terms of the wool coat — it always pains us to see women wearing ski jackets or other short jackets over a suit. Maybe we’re old school, but a nice wool or cashmere overcoat — long enough to cover your thighs — will never go out of fashion. And of course you can wear it on top of your suit. For your interview, we would absolutely recommend wearing a coat — your common sense and judgment is a valid subject on the table, and if it’s cold out, common sense dictates you should wear a coat. You’re probably going to have to take the coat off to get through security, though, so we would just carry it, folded neatly, from that point forward. (Furthermore, there’s no real excuse for not having a proper wool coat right now, as tons of places have them on deep discount. (2013 Update: Check out our Hunt for Wool Coats.)

Finally, as for the purse/portfolio issue — we’ve seen women do it both ways, and have never thought less of someone we interviewed because she carried a portfolio. (That’s what most of the guys do, isn’t it?) Personally we’re fans of carrying a nylon or leather tote bag, though, to hold both the portfolio or folder as well as the contents of our purse. We would suggest, however, that whatever you carry should be as professional and grown-up as possible — so leave the backpack with reflectors on it at home. (2013 Update: Check out these interview bags.)

Readers, what say you?


  1. A purse at an interview seems odd to me. I vote for a professional tote + portfolio.

    • Ditto. I’ll add that professional tote is optional (if I were in this 3L’s shoes, I’d go w/o a purse or tote and just stash my car keys, ID and cell phone in my coat pocket).

    • I do recruiting for my firm and I cringe when we do OCI (or even office interviews) and girls walk in carrying their louis vuitton handbags. I never quite understand why they bring them to interviews – they are small (so nothing you need for an interview fits inside), they are clumsy (it’s not like they fit over your shoulder like a tote so they are always in the way when you’re doing the “hello” and “goodbye” handshakes), they are a little “look at me”, and worst of all, to me, they don’t send the most professional message. I realize that in some cases, the interviewee might bring such a bag as a security blanket and who am I to tell someone not to bring/wear something that she likes, but I’ve just got to be honest and say that, as someone scouting out the potential new attorneys at my office, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

      • Anyone carrying an LV handbag, I don’t care where, leaves a bad taste in my mouth, lol!

        • divaliscious11 :

          Anyone who is judge-y leaves a bad taste in many mouths and often simply comes off as envious. Assuming you are talking about a Classic Monogram bag, and not a runway or show bag, there are many people who consider that a neutral, and if its an Epi, most won’t know its by Louis Vuitton, and if they do and have a problem, you’d be hard pressed to convince me its not jealousy. Similarly damier bags are also fairly subtle. Now if you want to talk style of bag, that is different…

          • A logo monogram print as a neutral to an interview??? No way. I too do interviewing for my firm, and I do not at all think showing up with a bag plastered with a brand’s initials at all sends the right tone. You want people paying attention to you and your credentials, not your pocketbook. To the extent that your bag speaks, it should say “quietly professional and elegant” not “buy vuitton!!!” or “guess how much I cost!!”. Flash is not what should be aimed for. Why you would assume that to be jealousy is beyond me: I could well afford a Vuitton if I wanted one.

          • Agree that if LV= epi and someone judges me by that, it’s jealousy. But logos (LV, Coach, whatever) are a no-no for me at any time, and especially during interviews.

          • I happen to think the Classic Monogram bag is dog-ugly and wouldn’t carry one if it was given to me free of charge. I’m not jealous or envious, and I can easily afford one. I simply prefer not to carry something that is such an unattractive shade of brown. It’s so hideous one would be hard pressed to convince me that people carry it for any other reason than to make it clear they are carrying an expensive Louis Vuitton bag.

          • divaliscious11 :

            Actually I said a classic monogram as a neutral in general, and I don’t include Coach monogram in the same category as LV classic monogram. I guess I don’t look at people’s purses and make the assumptions you, and others apparently make. Is it neat (not having stuff falling out), is it discreet – meaning is it put away for the discussion, or sitting up on the table because there is no wear to put it etc…. But then again, I wouldn’t ding someone for wearing tights in a cold climate either. When I am hiring a lawyer, I’ve already reviewed your credentials on paper to determine that, unless you are a liar, you have the basic skills set to do the job, so who are you in relation to the job and the fit with our organization. I think a lot of these complaints are just excuses to ding someone. If I ding you, I am going to ding you, but it won’t be because they had a designer bag, or the wrong color hose. ….

          • divaliscious11 :

            anon @ 10:52 – You are perfectly entitled to not like something, and not spend you $ on it if you choose. However, just because you think something is “dog-ugly” doesn’t mean everyone else does, and it seems to me that dinging someone for having different ‘taste’ than you do, versus their ability to do the job, seems to say more about you than about the prospective candidate, and quite honestly, its not particularly flattering. We seem to be talking out of both sides our mouth in this discussion and perhaps on the board in general. As intelligent, educated woman in or aspiring to be in leadership roles in our chosen profession, we want to be evaluated for our skill and ability, but we complain about what really are minor issues. Yes, we can all say then men do it blah blah blah, but at what point do WE, and people in the positions with authority, say that isn’t that important, its not a determining factor etc… Are you really saying you’d ding a candidate with stellar credentials, stellar work experience because she carried a signature bag? If so, how exactly are you different than those men who never wanted to hire women to begin with???? We seem to have a lot of people on here who have an “it was done to me so I am going to do it to them” attitude, which really makes progress hard. Again, if you are AT the interview, you must have had something to ffer on paper, so I am going to check out who you are, not what you have on, unless you are grossly inappropriate.

          • Fashion Victim :

            As someone who spends her money on clothing before food, I consider it very bad form to wear obviously expensive, name brand designer to an interview. It has nothing to do with jealousy, in my personal opinion super obvious designer duds (like a pair of Christian Loubitan shoes or a Cartier locked bracelet) either scream “fashion victim,” “spoiled brat,” or “clueless.” Granted this is my opinion for a 20-something, if you’re already higher up the corporate ladder and a boss lady do whatever you please you’ve earned it. In my position nothing on my resume says I can afford any of this stuff. I always leave my LV and loubitans at home and carry a plain black tote (rebecca minkoff) and I stick with plain shoes (I like manolo because you can’t tell they are manolos). Even prada has that huge gold emblem on the bottom of the shoe now and it just in my opinion is the equivalent of a guy wearing a thumb ring to an interview. My future boss doesn’t need to know how reckless my spending habits are!

        • I love my LV Classic monogram Alma bag. I never knew so many people were judging me when I wore it! I figure the shape (Alma) has been around since the 1930s, and the monogram since way before that, and that’s good enough for me. Then again, the only time I’m going to judge someone for their bag is when they’re carrying around a hideous fake (which you see a lot with LV unfortunately).

          • anon - chi :

            Agreed – *especially* when they are carrying an obvious fake to a LEGAL interview! Opinions on this differ among lawyers, I realize, but I think it is safe to say that many lawyers feel that fakes = intellectual property theft. It’s like walking into an interview with the words “I’m a thief and take advantage of other peoples’ hard work without paying for it” stamped on your forehead. Not good.

            Aside from that, fakes (bad ones, anyway) are so often made of pleather – I feel like I see at least a couple of them on the CTA every single day, and I never understand why people think that looks good!

  2. I had a district court interview in NYC the weekend of that huge snowstorm back in December, and I wore sheer pantyhose with a black suit. What helped in keeping my legs warm and not getting gross slush all over the backs on my walk was a pair of black legwarmers. Slip them off after you go through security and stick them in your bag and you’ll be set.

  3. Less is more – I vote portfolio only. It should have enough space in it for bare essentials (ID, pens, car key, stamped and addressed Thank You cards/envelopes. Why would you need your phone?) Otherwise, you walk into the interview room carrying your coat, a purse, and a portfolio – if you need to shake hands with people as soon as you walk in the door, this presents a problem.

    • “Why would you need your phone?” – for safety/security reasons. Same reason I carry it when I go for a run – you never know.

      • Maybe someone else already said this (haven’t read all the entries) but some courthouses don’t allow non-attorneys to bring cell phones in the building. I’m always terrified that there’s an unknown setting on my cell that I have yet to discover and my phone will unexpectedly ring/chime/explode during an interview. I leave it in the car.

        • …And some courthouses don’t let anyone, including attorneys, to bring cell phones at all. (e.g., SDNY). Regardless, you can go without a cell phone for an hour interview. If an emergency arises, presumably you can use the judge’s chambers phone.

          Also, I can’t imagine that a judge’s chambers wouldn’t have a coat rack/stand in the reception area, so wear the jacket.

    • divaliscious11 :

      Safety, perhaps one has children in childcare, so the recyuiting coordinator can contact you to reschedule if the interviewer has an emergency….

  4. A purse seems odd to me too – the purse is usually too unprofessional (baubles, bling and noisemakers). You seek to be a professional – buy a professional tote! If you are on a budget, Target carries a line of professional looking totes. Ensure that the portfolio and an umbrella fit. Ensure that it has pockets so that you can easily find a pen.

    As for the wool coat – you will look silly if you shiver in the cold in a suit jacket. I saw one this morning, and laughed inwardly. Buy a 3/4 length coat. Nothing says ‘teenager’ like a short coat over a skirt suit, and nothing says ‘secretary’ like a pea coat over a pant suit. Once again, for the budget, Target sells acceptable solutions (polyester). The color is not crucial, as long as you avoid turquoise and mustard.

    • Corporate Tool :

      Can you explain what you mean by “nothing says ‘secretary’ like a pea coat over a pant suit?”

      I’m not sure I understand why.

      • Yeah, I don’t normally see secretaries around here wearing suits . . .

        • My secretaries sport Ann Taylor, J.Crew, Talbots. Just like the lawyers.

          • The ones at my firm are dressed a big step down from the lawyers in terms of formality. I’m sure that’s just a firm culture thing though.

    • I was with you right up until avoiding turquoise and mustard (although I don’t see many secretaries in peacoats). So fuchsia is fine?

      Honestly, you’ll have your coat off before you’re in the interview room, and accessories that aren’t part of your outfit like a coat or bag are the best way to not be boring. Wear whatever color you like.

    • What about an understated, professional-looking purse? I’ve heard legends.

  5. I think for a law student in a public sector job (whatever it might be) a purse and portfolio (if it’s nice) is perfectly fine. But when it comes to tights with a suit, I guess I look at it and say if it’s cold enough to dress like a 6 year old in a skirt, just wear pants. But I’m from the southeast.

    • I’m with you, and I voted ‘other’ in the question about tights with a skirt suit.
      Wear pants if its cold. Wear a skirt suit with nude hose if its not. Everything else is not formal enough for an interview.

  6. For a panel of judges in the midwest (hmm, is this that 7th circuit staff clerk in chicago thing? had a friend who did that) you should wear pantyhose that match your skin color. NOT tights.

    • From the UK: What’s the difference between tights and pantyhose? I always assumed pantyhose was the US word for tights…

      • Pantyhose are thinner and sheerer. Tights seem more thick and informal.

  7. I vote against tights because of the audience – judges are older; they will likely consider tights unprofessional. But in no way would they find nude hose unprofessional. Thus err on the side of caution. I love the legwarmer idea!

  8. One thing to keep in mind (from a former midwest-er) is that in cold climates people are often distracted if it appears your legs aren’t covered in the winter (eg nude hose). Then they’re thinking about your legs, which no one wants at an interview. I recommend covering with black/off black hose and then you won’t get noticed for wearing tights, if that’s something the interviewer would notice, and you won’t get noticed for having apparently bare legs. I think it’s the safest option. Also another vote for the “no purse” suggestion.

    • I’m also from the upper Midwest and could not agree more. Nude hose really only look appropriate in less-than-frigid weather. Dark colored hose that match the skirt/shoes not only creates a cleaner line but also doesn’t distract.

    • I’m in the upper Midwest as well and completely agree about the no tights/dark hose advice in cold weather. Also, I agree about wearing a nice coat, it’s winter, no one will judge you for bringing a coat with you and the last thing you want is to have melted snowflakes all over your suit if you have to walk in inclement weather.

    • Absolutely right. It’s been freezing up here lately and looking like you’ve been walking around with exposed skin (even if you are just wearing nude hose) will definitely get you the wrong kind of attention. Wear pants or dark hose.

    • This is brilliant! I lived in the upper midwest for 13 years and absorbed the no-nude-hose-in-winter thing by osmosis, but never understood why I didn’t like nude hose. And now, having moved out away, I’ve started wearing nude hose again. It all makes sense now!

  9. Definitely wear a coat. And I would go with portfolio in a tote or even a briefcase. (I carried a briefcase for my clerkship interviews.) Just make sure you figure out a relatively elegant way to hold both your bag and your coat using only your non-dominant arm, so you can enter a room and shake hands easily before figuring out where your stuff should go.

    • Anonymous :

      I think you’d have to hold everything in your left arm (not necessarily your non-dominant arm if you’re left handed) to make hand-shaking easier… Otherwise you’d have to shuffle it from the right to left to free your right hand. Depending on the straps/handle, you might be able to keep your bag on the right shoulder though.

      • Ah, that’s right. I’m right-handed, so I just non-dominant without thinking that the lefties end up having to accommodate us anyway. lol.

  10. Sheer/nude pantyhose are kind of 1980s and dated. I try to avoid at all costs…they just kind of look bad on everyone.

    Definitely go for dark black sheer or regular black tights. I think black tights look good with a black skirt suit. If it is freezing outside, stay warm with black tights! Judges may question your judgment if you show up in the freezing cold with nothing on your legs but sheer/nude stockings. Same thing goes for if you show up with no coat. And wear gloves – you don’t want your hands to feel like icicles when you have give a handshake to a group of people.

    • Agreed with the gloves thing. I have the kind of hands that feel like little icicles unless it’s at least 80 degrees out but have always lived in cold climates. Whenever I have neglected to warm up my hands before waling into the interview, I have recieved comments. If you don’t want to deal with the bulk of gloves or mittens, leave enough time to jaunt into the restroom and rinse your hands in warm/hot water before the interview. Just make sure the dry them thoroughly. Shaking someone’s moist hand is gross!

    • I go to a district courthouse in the midwest 2-3 times a week and I almost never see women in sheer black or black tights. Almost all women wear sheer pantyhouse. If you select the right color /type ie NOT considerably darker than your skin tone or shiny they look fine. I think if you wear anything else you risk standing out like a sore thumb.

      • Agreed. I’m in Chicago. Nude pantyhose. It’s the appropriate thing, and we’re all used to the weather. I love leg warmers for this reason.

        • divaliscious11 :

          Unless your skin is brown…and the nude looks like you’ve come down with a skin disorder because it doesn’t match your skin tone……

          • Sorry, by “nude” I meant “the color that is close to your skin color” not the color that most lines inappropriately label nude.

      • Concur. I’m in Madison and the majority of women appearing in Court and judicial clerks wear nude/sheer hose.

        • I know very little about the mid-west.. was only there in May (!) and once stuck in O’Hare for 48 hrs during an ice storm, BUT if you need to wear nude hose and it is subzero cold, you can wear two pairs. It is really warm.

  11. Along the purse/portfolio line of conversation… The fed. court house here (I’m in the South) does NOT allow people to bring in cell phones that have cameras unless you have a special pass. They will seriously make you go back to your car and leave your cell phone there before entering the building.

    Personally, I’d go with nude hose, wool coat, portfolio only. However, I don’t think you’d be judged adversely if you went in with a purse and a portfolio. I guess the hose is probably area-specific. I don’t really see people around here wearing hose that are not nude to business formal events.

  12. Anonymous :

    C, can you share with us what you use for your professional tote?

  13. Don’t put your keys in your pocket. Use a tote and put everything in there so you can just throw it on the security conveyor belt. Preferably one with inside pockets and a top zip to separate your folio and keep it easily accessible. If you start putting stuff in your pockets you will have to empty them out for security, flustering you and making you feel rushed. In the same way, have a photo ID already out of your wallet and stashed in a side pocket on your tote so you can easily produce it. Gliding through security at a federal courthouse will give you more confidence before your interview.

  14. former clerk :

    I clerked for a very stylish female federal judge who routinely wore sheer black or off-black stockings with heels and a skirt suit and always looked impeccable. The key with hose is to buy dense and high-quality brands — cheap hose will look cheap. I think that nude hose is also professional. I do not think that tights work with a suit, which is a great shame because they are so comfortable. But trust me — you will look more professional and fit into the courthouse better if you are wearing hose. Tights are fine if you are wearing a skirt-and-top combination.

    I also don’t get the peacoat-and-secretary comment!

  15. Definitely a long wool or cashmere coat.

    Either portfolio alone or portfolio-in-professional-tote is fine. I carried one very similar to this for interviews. I arrived with the portfolio inside the bag and the bag under my arm, which leaves both hands free and makes you look put-together and ready – you’re not juggling anything. Then you can take the portfolio out as you sit down, which gives you something to do with your hands while the interviewer shuffles papers and sits down, preventing any awkward fidgeting. I landed an AmLaw top 10 firm and a circuit court clerkship, so I assume it was fine. http://www.endless.com/Lodis-Audrey-Satchel-Brief-Work/dp/B0011X2UDA/ref=sr_1_19_vp/?cAsin=B0011X5SXY&fromPage=search&qid=1264712935863&sr=1-19&asins=B0011X55SC,B0011X85HA,B0011X55QY,B0011X55FA,B0011X7X82,B0011X9Z9W,B0011X3886,B0011X11WQ,B0011WYZK2,B0011X2WA6,B0011X5SYI,B0011X4JS4,B0011X2UCG,B0011X11SK,B0011X4LGE,B0011X11R6,B0011X5SZM,B0011X5T0G,B0011X5SXY,B0011WZ15U,B0011X2W7O,B0011X5SUW,B0011X13I8,B0011X11O4,B0011X5SZW,B0011X4JQQ,B0011X11NU,B0011X11VM,B0011X11QM,B0011X4JPM,B0011X4JT8,B0011X11VC&asinTitle=Lodis%20Audrey%20Satchel%20Brief%20Work%20Bag&contextTitle=Search%20Results&page=2&prepickColor=1&size=100&dept=241747011&node=241747011&nodes=241747011&brands=Lodis&sort=-product_site_launch_date

    Definitely no tights. Personally, I think nude hose with a black suit looks odd because the contrast is so stark. If your suit is black, I’d go with sheer black hose. However, if you’re wearing gray or navy, I’d go with nude.

  16. I’m currently doing my second federal clerkship and I did lots of clerkship interviews my 3L year (primarily in east coast and southern courthouses), and I’ve interviewed lots of candidates as well. In general, I don’t think carrying a purse or wearing tights would be a catastrophe but I agree that a professional looking bag and dark hose is probably the safest way to go. I would only carry a portfolio if you feel comfortable that way, I do not think it is necessary. Definitely wear a coat, knee length in a dark or camel color. In general with judges I think a good rule of thumb is to avoid wearing anything your grandfather or grandmother would find odd. Dark skirt suit, low heels, hair off your face, minimal jewelry, natural makeup, simple top, dressed appropriately with the weather, etc.

    Also this is not directly responsive, but if possible I’d do a practice run parking at the courthouse, getting in the building, and locating chambers. Some of the federal courthouses I’ve been in have extremely confusing parking situations. As was mentioned above, definitely leave your phone in the car. I took a cab to one interview and made the mistake of bringing my phone, then the marshals would absolutely not let me bring it in the courthouse. I had to beg one of them to personally hold it for me, which he did extremely reluctantly. It was not a great way to start an interview.

    • Excellent idea re the practice trip to the courthouse. Also, if your interview is first thing in the morning, be aware that the courthouse will probably be packed and it may take you several minutes to get an elevator.

      • And get an idea of what is going on in the courthouse, if possible. If there’s any high profile case with public interest, there will be more people, and if it’s a day that people called for jury duty show up, the lines will be LONG.

  17. Ditto on leaving your phone in the car, and for not having loose items in your pockets. You will have to empty them as you go through security. This makes you feel flustered, you might forget something, and it’s entirely possible the judge or one of the clerks will walk in right behind you and see you fumbling awkwardly for your stuff. Most judges aren’t jerks and wouldn’t hold it against you, but you’d still feel silly, and that’s not a great way to start an interview.

  18. As a Chicagoan, I personally would never hire a person who chose to show up at an interview in Jan-Feb without a winter coat and covered legs. Not wearing a coat in 10 to 20 below temperatures makes you look like a moron (and completely unprepared). Besides, if you wear a long coat, you can keep your wallet and ID in your pocket and just carry a portfolio. I would pack light (for security and comfort).

    I think tights are fine. Or black hose. Per an earlier comment, I doubt most judges (esp. those of the older male persuasion) can tell the difference between hose and tights, so I think it is not really that big of a deal.

    I would NOT drive if you are going to a big city (e.g. Chicago). Take a cab and arrive early to get through security. Then go to the ladies room to freshen up, deal with your coat, and warm up your hands etc.

  19. I clerked for a federal judge – I don’t think I or the Judge ever noticed the color of hose worn by a female candidate (although I prefer nude hose personally), and I second the “don’t carry your Louis Vitton/any fabric bag with obvious pattern” into an interview – you want your bag and portfolio to totally blend in. Black or brown, functional, but not very interesting. Make sure you know how to handle your bag/coat/portfolio jumble as gracefully and unobtrusively as possible.
    The only thing that we would have commented on is a candidate without a coat in winter – I don’t know if it would have hurt you, but we’d definitely talk about it later.
    As for the leg warmers; it seems like a good idea, but my courthouse required someone from the chambers to come down and get the candidate, which doesn’t leave much time for sneaking to the restroom to remove them. I’d leave these at home on interview day.

  20. RoadWarriorette :

    It sounds like the nude hose/black hose issue is very regional! I, personally, think you should continue the line of the suit. So for a dark suit, dark hose, light suit, lighter hose. I remember one time seeing Diane Sawyer and she had on a beautiful oatmeal-colored suit….and black hose and shoes. All I could do was stare at her legs because they looked so out of place. I digress……

    Definitely bring a coat. If you are anywhere with snow at all wear a coat!! Arriving with hypothermia is not a great way to start an interview.

    If you are worried about your resumes getting wrinkled or crumpled in your purse, bring a portfolio. My work bags are typically large enough to hold a portfolio (or a small laptop)–I am guessing this is what C means by a professional tote? One of my purses looks similar to this one


    Also, I like the idea one poster had about doing a dry run so you know where to go and how long security takes. Good luck!!

    • It must be. I don’t even own nude hose at this point–I’ve literally never seen a professional woman in my city (in the Pacific Northwest) wearing them. Thank God, because I think that they’re hideous.

      And wearing hose under skirt suits is fairly par for the course in my office (big law firm).

    • Absolute 100% agreement that the nude v. colored hose/tights must be a regional thing. I live in FL and hardly ever see colored tights on attorneys and only see nude hose about half the time.
      But if dark hose/tights is par for the course in the midwest, I say go for it.

  21. I really don’t like tights with skirt suits, though I have no problem with them in general with skirts. I like the extra warmth compared to hose. But with a suit, tights seem more casual (and don’t always look right with pumps of the formal, interview variety), and they also exaggerate the monochromatic look of a suit so that you are totally matched from head to foot. Why not just wear a pantsuit in that case? It’s not any less dressy than a skirt suit with tights.

    I also find nude hose distracting in the winter time (I am a lawyer in Chicago, too). Why would you be simulating a bare-legged look (which is what the best nude hose do) when it is 10 degrees out? In my view, black or off-black strikes the right balance between the casual/monochrome tights look and the bare-legged/nude hose WTF look.

    • I agree with those who have posted that tights are too informal for an interview suit ensemble.

      I have some suits with which I like to wear a turtleneck, tights, and boots. It’s a cute look and comfortable for winter, but less formal. The suit fabric is heavier, so the thickness of the tights and turtleneck work. For occasions where you’re wearing a dressier suit with a nice blouse, tights just don’t go with the overall look.

      This is why I voted “other” – it isn’t just an “office day” or “interview” issue; it’s also a “what goes with the suit” issue. Not all suits will look right with tights, IMHO.

  22. Marshall’s is a good place to get the tote, it can be hit or miss but some have great bag sections. I have two leather liz claiborne ones, each was around 40 or 50 I think, but good size and simple.

    Also I’m planning on wearing nude hose to public sector interview in dc, is this ok even in winter?

  23. Anonymous :

    Why are we so judgmental about the way women dress? Why can’t women simply be judged on the merits of their experience and acheivements? Would a man be asking whether he should wear a coat to an interview or not, or what color tie he should wear?

    • The men I know consult me about wardrobes for big events all the time! And stress about what tie/shirt combo they should wear to make the right impression. And there was just an article today about the color tie the President wore for the State of the Union address and what it meant. I think men are faced with similar scrutiny, it’s just that women have more options.

      • Eh, Sonia Sotomayor got all kinds of remarks about her apparel when her nomination was being confirmed. Even though the job she was applying for would require her to be covered in black robes. I don’t recall John Roberts or any other recent male appointee getting scrutiny on his clothing.

    • divaliscious11 :

      I think its women who are far more judgmental about what other women wear…. We should be the ones who can see past the clothing/accessories etc… and focus on the candidate, but no, we are too busy dinging other women for tights with a suit, or nude hose/not nude hose etc…. its pretty sad, actually….

    • It does suck that appearances matter. But it’s the way of the world, so we have to accept it and do our best.
      Someone told me once, in response to the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover”, that more than likely you’ll walk right past a book if it has a boring or sloppy cover. Think about it.
      And frankly, I think men are judged on their appearances as well. Have you ever looked at an attorney or other professional male who was sloppy or poorly dressed and made a judgment or idea about him? Like someone else said, women just have more options (thus making things a little more difficult for us).

      • divaliscious11 :

        SUCL – You are right, appearance does matter, but we aren’t talking about gross inappropriateness, we are talking about hose and purses! And quite a few of us on this board seem to be senior enough in our respective roles that we have some influence on hiring. My question is should we not be taking the opportunity to say this is not a deciding factor. Because being perfectly boringly conservative is not going to save a crappy candidate, so why should wearing something you personally don’t like or approve of ding a well qualified one?

      • divaliscious11 :

        Another thought…How many men get dinged because, “Oh , he wore blue and grey tie, instead all grey or all blue”? (Excluding, of course, a uniform requirement.) I’d wager the answer is either slim to none, or only profferred when the real excuse for dinging is sociall/legally/politically unacceptable. In either case, you’d appear ridiculous.

  24. I voted gray/off-black on the hose question, but I wasn’t sure where my response should fall. I generally wear what is called “soft taupe” with suits, which is somewhere between my skin color (fairly pale) and gray. I think this is a nice, soft neutral. I’ve seen some women pull off darker gray and off-black hose with black suits, but it always looks too odd on me when I try it for some reason (seems too evening-ish to me).

  25. I live in Chicago and would find nude hose odd in the winter. I’d find them odd in the summer too, but that’s because I think the faux-skin look is a weird look. It looks “cold” to see skin in the winter. I love tights with suits, but since some people disagree, go with dark hose.

  26. i have apparently missed something. I always thought tights and pantyhose were the same thing? what’s the difference in black pantyhose and black tights?

  27. Wow, apparently I am the only person who wears tights with suits! On the other hand, I work in an academic/corporate environment (sounds like an oxymoron, but they do exist), and there’s a little more freedom for that sort of creativity.

    However, I was under the impression that nude hose were a no-no under ALL circumstances. I thought hose should always be sheer, but black; if it’s summer or if the suit is light in color, the legs should be bare. I can’t think of anyone I know under the age of 50 or so who wears nude hose.

    • I wear tights with suits. Just not to interviews.

      • Bare legs are not appropriate with a suit, period. Nude or pale-colored hose are totally fine even for those of us under 50.

        • That depends entirely on the region. I’d say it is rare in my part of Florida to see women wearing pantyhose outside of courtrooms/interviews. Even in those situations, some women still won’t wear them. It’s just way too hot most of the time for them to be bearable. If your legs don’t really look presentable without hose, I haven’t found that they look any better with them.

          • I live in the Midwest and even up here I don’t believe I’ve seen many women wearing hose during the summer (even in court).

    • I’ve frequently worn tights with suits during both of my federal clerkships and I don’t think it is inappropriately casual, even in a courthouse. Considering the apparent disagreement, however, if the candidate wants to err on the side of caution in an interview it seems like she should go with dark hose and hope she doesn’t end up in front of a judge (or more likely an extremely judgmental law clerk) with an unusually strong opinion about the relative merits of pantyhose colors.

      • if the candidate wants to err on the side of caution in an interview it seems like she should go with dark hose and hope she doesn’t end up in front of a judge (or more likely an extremely judgmental law clerk) with an unusually strong opinion about the relative merits of pantyhose colors.

        Come to think of it, given the way a dictatorial or otherwise unpleasant judge can make your life hell during a clerkship, wearing dark hose might not be a bad idea to screen out at least one or two control freaks here or there.

        • Good point! Sometimes it’s difficult to get direct information like that about judges through more traditional means.

    • I wear tights with suits, and wouldn’t think of wearing nude hose — too much like my grandma! Tights keep you warm in the winter and are thick enough so that you can’t see your skin poking through. If you buy a nice pair like Wolford, I think they look good with skirt suits.

      None of my counterparts wear nude hose either. Totally agree w/ your comments (I’m a corporate attorney in DC).

  28. Regarding the purse portfolio issue, I would recommend that you carry a large purse that is capable of holding a portfolio, plus keys, wallet, etc. I find something akin to a breifcase that stands on its own works best (as opposed to a floppy soft bag that will not stand on its own), that way you can have it open next to your chair and easily access anything you may need during your interview. Also, once your interview is over you can easily place your documents back into the bag, pull the strap over your shoulder and have your hands free to shake hands, open a door, etc.without juggling your belongings.

    I would go with the nude hose. Nude pantyhose are not fashionable, but they are traditional and conservative. A traditional and conservative look plays better with judges than a trendy look.

  29. Fashions change. I’ve lived through “NEVER nude hoses. What are you, a granny?” And I’ve lived through “Only nude hose. Tights are so ’80s. So unflattering.” I think the answer right now is dark (absolutely not sheer, not patterned) hose to go with a dark suit in a cold climate. Make sure that they are heavy denier (i.e., more opaque) hose so that they won’t run easily and they won’t look like they are meant to wear to a cocktail party. If the hose are dark and heavier weight they will look professionaly, but not too young. In the summer, with a suit, sheer nude hose are a lot more professional than no hose at all. Dark hose look totally out of place.

  30. Wow, reading this stressed me out and I’m not even interviewing for a gig! I clerked for a federal judge in San Fran after law school. I can’t remember what I wore for the interview exactly (I think a navy Evan Picone suit?). I wore dark hose and pumps and a long, wool coat. I’m positive I didn’t have a “professional tote” but I think I carried a black Coach satchel/brief case thingie for my stuff that I got from an outlet. No cell phones then (but pagers, wow, remember those?! 1997). What I CAN tell you is what we talked about in the interview, even to this day LOL.

    I don’t know about you guys, and I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I don’t overthink these things. My Mom raised me right. I have a decent sense of decorum and appropriateness. I knew what lawyers looked like even though I wasn’t one yet. I didn’t have tons of money then, but I could put together a decent outfit with $300. I had NO conversations with my law school girlfriends about any of these things. We just knew what to do. Are we all over-thinking this?!

    • I think, to some extent, we are over-thinking this. I often wonder how successful one could be working for a person for whom whether a candidate wears nude or black hose is a deciding factor.

      Wear a suit. Have a firm handshake. Carry a bag or portfolio, but not a Hello Kitty bag or portfolio. Focus on the interview itself, not whether your heels can be over 3″ high.

      • I do interviews and I don’t remember the hosiery choices of any candidate that I’ve seen!

        • I also do interviews. I look to see whether or not the candidate (male or female) looks professional and put-together. End of story.

          Of course, I have my own personal preference on what I like to wear, what I think looks most professional (choice of hosiery, skirt vs pants, collar vs shell, etc.) FOR ME. But I’m not looking to see if the candidate shares my personal preferences.

          A firm handshake, overall preparedness, and good communication skills (making eye contact, sitting up straight, thoughtful questions, etc.) are much more important to me than whether a woman is wearing nude hose, black hose, black tights or pants.

  31. To anon and Karen – One of the things I like about Corporette is that we can focus on something that is fun and easy to control – fashion. Do we *need* to know whether dark or nude nylons are more appropriate? No, of course not. We aren’t stupid – the interview isn’t going to hinge on the color of hose or whether a purse is being carried. But is it nice to feel comfortable and secure in what you are wearing? Absolutely.

    My vote btw – nude hose, no purse (especially not a label purse), and definitely wear a coat. :) But if you really want to be sure about the color of nylons, since it seems to be so regional, maybe take a peek at what people are wearing when you go for that practice run.

    • Agree with your first comment – it’s a fashion blog! We want to talk about tights vs hose vs whatever. If you don’t like it, then read something else.

  32. I meant Lawgirl, no idea where Karen came from! :)

  33. As far as purses–what do we mean by logo? I would never carry a monogram LV or signature Coach, but my nice purses (not totes) are all Rebecca Minkoff, which are definitely recognizable but by no means logo. Are these still appropriate, or should I be looking into getting another black leather tote (my current one is a black coach one)?

    • I think the issue with purses is (1) better to carry something professional-looking that you can fit a portfolio in to an interview and (2) logos, not brand. It’s fine to have designer clothes and accessories, but you shouldn’t be a walking advertisement with a name or logo covering your clothes and accessories, to my mind. And I figure anyone who will recognize the brand of a purse not covered in logo is not someone who will be bothered by it!

  34. All this discussion about purse/no purse makes me wonder: what do you do if you must carry feminine hygiene products on interview day? Put them in your portfolio/briefcase and carry that into the bathroom with you?

    I always thought that one of the nice things about a small handbag is that you can grab it when you need to take it into the bathroom without it being so obvious that you have a “bag of stuff” with you…

    As a side note: when I worked as one of the few women at an engineering firm, I wore a fanny pack every day (I know! Awful, huh? It was the 80s). I had a few small specialized tools that I needed often, and I could also keep tampons in the pack when I had to have them. Otherwise, it was so incredibly obvious when I went back to my desk, got my purse, and carried it down the long, echoing hallway to the bathroom. Didn’t take too many “jokes” about when I was “PMSing” to learn that trick, ugh.

    Not really that germane to the “what to wear to an interview” question, sorry.

    • Are you a former engineer? I was an engineer before I went to law school.

      For what it’s worth, I tucked a tampon into my pocket or waistband (under my shirt) when making a bathroom run.

      • I don’t think one is ever a former engineer. It’s more of a mindset than a career, don’t you think? I haven’t worked for pay as an engineer for 20 years, but I still are one, deep inside.

        • Interesting. Then perhaps I never really was an engineer, despite earning a BS and MS in engineering and working as an engineer for a major manufacturing company. I never had the passion for engineering that I have for the law.

          I’m still interested in science (my practice area is patent litigation), but I recognize the difference between myself and those who love(d) engineering.

    • I do have the same problem. I work in an office now, and have a long walk to get to the restroom. I either (a) tuck it into my skirt or pants pocket or (b) tuck it into my waistband so that its covered by the hem of my top (untucked) and the waistband of my skirt. I usually do this in my side (not front/tummy area) as it gets mostly covered by my arms when I walk and bulges aren’t noticeable.

    • This doesn’t help much with interviews, but here’s what I do in gereral at the office. I have a small wristlet that I keep in a drawer in my desk that has a little fold-up hair brush, lipstick, and another item or two that I almost always take with me when I go to the bathroom at work. It can easily hold a tampon when necessary.

    • If you’re interviewing, wouldn’t you usually take your briefcase in the bathroom with you? You’re not going to drop if off in the judge’s chambers before going to the restroom, and you’re not going to leave it sitting in the public hallway in the courthouse. I’m having trouble thinking of a scenario where you’d be interviewing that you wouldn’t take all your belongings to the restroom with you.

  35. I’m currently clerking for a federal judge (upper Midwest) who thinks that black hose look unprofessional and only work for evening wear. That being said, my judge focuses on the candidate’s qualifications and personality, not whether she’s wearing nude or black hose. We did have one candidate show up in totally inappropriate shoes (worn-out clogs), but that wasn’t why she didn’t get the position.

    Personally, I always interview in a pantsuit because then I don’t have to worry about what color my hose are or if I’m showing too much leg. Others don’t want the risk running into an interviewer who thinks only skirt suits are appropriate. YMMV.

  36. One more thing, just in case you don’t know this: in many federal courthouses, everyone who goes through security is required to show a government-issued photo I.D.

  37. Does anyone else find hose so unbearably uncomfortably they simply cannot wear it? Even if I wear it for 2 hours it embeds itself in my inner thigh and the chafing is beyond painful. Plus it always, always, always runs, no matter what brand I buy. Hose is just awful

    • I’ve found that in FL, a lot of women wouldn’t be caught dead in hose. They’re just so unbelievably awful in 80+ degrees with 85%+ humidity, and let’s not get into how awful it is to have to drive home in a 120 degree car with them on. My car interior is black and I often find that I am absolutely drenched after my drive home. If it’s cold and I want to cover my legs, I wear tights or pants.

    • I am unfortunately quite familiar with the inner-thigh chafing, etc. However, I was told this is because my hose are too small. Not sure though. Being in Florida, I don’t wear hose very often unless it’s court or an interview.

    • Sounds like you might want to try a larger size. I’m usually in between small and medium and opt for the medium for comfort.

    • Yes, if there’s chafing, then buy a larger size for sure. I find that buying one size larger also helps to reduce runs. The extra fabric helps you move more comfortably.

      • But if I buy a size larger they fall off my waist and bag at the ankles. Any other ideas? I don’t think I have abnormally large thighs.

        • Also, this squeezing and chafing doesn’t happen when I wear things with a thicker fabric, like shapers or tights. Only hose.

  38. Experienced Practitioner :

    In winter, dark tights with skirt suit are always fine and professional. Also, even for an interview, a clean-lined pants suit is also good. Perfect fit for either is very important. Men notice how suits fit. Nude panty hose are dowdy. I haven’t seen anyone wearing them in years.

  39. Experienced Practitioner :

    Tote or leather envelope or portfolio for resumes and purse stuff. Do not carry purse.

  40. North Shore :

    Does anyone think this has to do with height and/or leg length? I’m 5’2″, and if I wear tights I look like a child, even though I’m in my 40s. I tend to wear off black or taupe hose, which I think makes my short legs stand out less. Or maybe I’m deluding myself.

    And yes, we are overthinking this issue, but it’s a lot more fun than the work I’m supposed to be doing right now.

    • When I worked in Japan 5 years ago, tights were pretty much the norm as opposed to hose. I was taller than all of my female coworkers sat 5’5″ and didn’t think any of them looked too young just because they wore tights.

  41. I am in the midwest too (downtown Chicago) and here is my 2 cents…

    I find a purse at an interview to be very unproffesional. Stash your keys, phone, id and lipstick into your coat pocket or get a briefcase/professional looking shoulder bag to put these things into.

    I love the portfolio idea, and generally bring one with me to important meetings and/or interviews. Don’t forget a nice looking pen and some paper to take notes on the position. I have brought these in on their own (like men do) or stashed it into a black briefcase/professional leather shoulder bag.

    I recently have noticed women wearing charcol gray nylons with black dresses/suits…and while it looks perhaps a bit more “trendy” as opposed to “classic” I like the combination. I would save the tights for the office and suck it up and wear nylons for the interview.

    As far as the coat…I agree with C that your common sense/judgment is being evaluated. While it seems odd to be wearing a coat to an interview, it does make the most sense given the frigid temperatures outside. I’ve wondered about this myself, so good to see others agree. definately get a black wool/cashmere dress coat and skip anything you would wear hiking or skiing!

    Good luck!

  42. I just wanted to echo Bonviva that you shouldn’t forget the ID…maybe it’s because I am in a bigger city (chicago) but every office building I go to now adays requires a photo ID to get in, and usually the “airport style” metal detectors – where you have to empty your pockets and put everything onto a belt to be examined. While it may not be this way in smaller cities, I am sure a courthouse would have top security.

  43. Safest bet is neutral and professional – plain, non-logo, professional looking bag with keys, TURNED OFF cell phone, portfolio, etc. etc. etc. I would go with pantyhose that match your skin color.

    The thing is, judges are some of the craziest little mini-dictators in the world. I’ve heard of judges who have courtroom dress codes specifying that female attorneys can’t wear pants. Stupid? Yes. But you can’t fight the fight without hurting your client, so you just have to roll with it. In this case, far more than in a firm or government-attorney situation, I really would say that statement items – logo bags, bright colors, etc. – are out.

    Can you see if your judges have any crazy local rules (such as no pants on women, etc.?) It will give you an idea how conservative they might be.

  44. I completely agree about the idiosyncratic rules. There’s a judge on my court who has a major issue with women wearing shoes that are “too pointy.” The no pantsuit thing is pretty common, so I think definitely wear a skirt suit. But other more specific dress issues can be difficult to find out ahead of time, and I don’t think the candidate should stress about trying to figure them all out unless she has a close friend who is a former clerk or an attorney who knows the judge well. As long as she follows the basic advice that everyone has offered already, I think (as was pointed out above) that being dinged for something like wearing shoes that are too pointy might just be dodging the bullet of working for an unreasonably rigid judge.

  45. I understand people who find it fun to discuss the issue of whether tights or pantyhose would be appropriate. But ultimately, I think the question would be, whether someone would not get the position solely because she wore a particular type of hose. I can’t imagine that it would make a difference in 99.999999% of the cases.

  46. As a non-lawyer, I’m embarrassed on behalf of all of you that you have to deal with people who are so behind the times that they’re worried about whether women’s shoes are too pointy or whether their pantyhose is nude or sheer black. This is supposed to be the best and the brightest in this field? Are these people still stuck in the 1980’s? Good grief. The world has moved on. Real professionals in the corporate world are well beyond this. Women can and do look authoritative and yet express their individuality through color, cut, accessories, etc.

    • PurpleViolet :

      1980’s? Some of these old federal judges have been on the bench before the civil rights movement. They still can’t figure out why women are in front of the bar!

  47. Jacques DuBois :

    Short skirts with ultra sheer see thru blouse…no bra and really large breasts.
    Thigh high stockings with no npanties and 4″ heels. Just enough to give me an ultra erection. Yiu can now remove your blouse so I may massage your breasts while you jerk me off.