Guide to Basic Women’s Suiting

interview attire for womenIt can be tricky for women to find a great interview suit — but our shopping guide for women’s suits will help you get started. We update the text of this page often; in the meantime please add your own comments about women’s suiting on this page. Please keep all comments on this page strictly on topic. Wondering what to wear to work beyond a business suit? Please check out our challenge with four weeks of work outfit ideas!

Last updated: March 2018.

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Interview Suits for Women: A General Note

If you are interviewing for a conservative job (law, investment banking, consulting, etc.), the whole point is that the interviewer is interested in your brain — not your fashion sense. Your resume and your words should speak louder than your clothes, and to that end, the entire goal of the interview outfit should be to make sure that it doesn’t distract the interviewer. Show personality through your words, not your clothes.

(Psst: you may also want to check out our page focusing on courtroom attire for women lawyers.)

(Pictured at top: Blazer / Blouse / SkirtWatch / Pearls / Earrings / Pantyhose / Heels /  Tote — see more specific thoughts on which suits are best for women, below.) 

guide to interview attire for women

Click to enlarge our handy guide to interview attire for women.

The Best Color Suit for Interviews

What color suit should you get? Most people will tell you that young professional women should buy a navy suit or a dark charcoal suit, if only because both colors are less severe than black. Personally, I think a black suit is fine as well — and if you’re on a budget, it’s easier to break the suit into separates once you’re working. (In fact, black suits are so popular right now that one reader even wondered if she could “get away” with a gray suit for interviews!) Please do not try to match different black fabrics to “make” a suit, though. If you’re only buying one or two suits, do your best to avoid pinstripes — they tend to be more memorable, harder to accessorize, and the pieces tend to be harder to wear as separates. (If you do end up buying one, though, check out our tips on how to wear a pinstriped suit and how to mix a dark blue pinstriped blazer with black.) Eventually you may want to expand your suit collection with non-traditional suit colors.

What Women Should Wear Beneath Suit Blazers

What to wear beneath the suit? From a practical perspective, sleeves are good things — even if the sleeved item is a short-sleeved silk sweater rather than a camisole or “shell.” This will help you extend the number of wears before you have to dry clean it (and you shouldn’t have to dry clean your suit that often). Otherwise, for an interview you want something that isn’t too fussy — a white, blue or pink button-down can be great, provided there is no gaping. (Check out our Guide to the Best Tops under Suits.) A short-sleeved silk sweater can be great (like those made by August Silkicon; you can also occasionally find them at Banana Republic, Talbots, and Ann Taylor), or even a silk jersey t-shirt can be fine provided that it looks like new and is opaque enough.

While prints are acceptable, the safest way to play it safe is to go with a solid color that flatters your skin tone. (A white blouse with a black suit is fine, but it sometimes has just a hint of “I might be a waiter — or a hired killer” look about it with women, so be warned.) Some people think a square neck is the best look of all with suits; others prefer to wear blouses beneath their suits. In terms of what colors to wear with your suit, for an interview it’s probably best to stick with solid classics (white, black, or pastels like blue, pink, or lavender).

How to Choose Shoes & Bags For Your Suit

What accessories (shoes and bags) should I wear? Note that you can wear black leather with navy (as well as cordovan, a reddish burgundy that can be difficult to find in women’s shoes). In the men’s world, brown is often thought to “dress down” a navy suit. Our Guide to Comfortable Heels may be helpful to you, as well as our most recent roundup of comfortable black pumps, and the readers’ comments there — ultimately you should be looking for a closed-toe pump that you can walk in for at least a few blocks, in case your interview includes lunch at a local restaurant. In terms of what bag to carry to an interview — I always like to carry a bag that is big enough to hold a folder with copies of my resume in it. (I empty the usual contents of my purse into the tote bag and just carry the one bag.) The bag doesn’t have to be leather — a nylon one is lighter, in fact — but it should be as nondescript as possible. If you’re curious for specific brand recommendations, check out our roundups of professional tote bags. In general, note that T.J.Maxx and the like can be great spots to find a simple black tote bag. As for jewelry — think conservative here. Your earrings should be posts, or at the very least things that don’t swish about if you nod your head.  (See above re: distractions.) You should wear a watch (yes, even if you use your cellphone to check the time — watches signify reliability to the interviewer). I’m always a fan of a simple, high-quality pearl necklace; a larger statement necklace would also work provided that it fits with the rest of the outfit. Avoid wearing bracelets that will make noise if you shake hands.

OK:  On to the suit itself.

Skirt Suit v. Pantsuit

Skirt or pantsuit? Traditionally, the most conservative answer here was a skirt suit — times are fortunately changing and in all but the most conservative of places a pantsuit is usually fine.  (If you’re interviewing in the South, for certain judges, or with senior partners over age 75 or so, you still may want to play it safe and go with a skirt suit.)  There are still pros to the skirt suit anyway, though: if you’re looking to buy something classic, the pencil skirt has been in for eons, while suiting pants have gone through a number of trendy iterations — plus, they really should be hemmed for either heels or flats, which limits your shoe choices more than a skirt does. Another pro: If you’re buying a suit on a budget, it can also be far easier to find a skirt that looks good by itself and can be worn as a separate in your wardrobe.  The major con: a skirt suit generally does mean pantyhose, although tights may be acceptable in colder weather. Avoid a miniskirt at all costs, and be careful of vents in the skirt — what seems like an acceptable side-slit may reach mid-thigh once you’re sitting down. (Always, always, always do an interview mirror check: pull your chair to the front of a full-length mirror and sit down in front of it, to assess your interview outfit.) You may also want to check out our poll on proper hem lengths for skirts — it seems like just above your knee is a good length. Please back away from the shorts suit. If you’re only buying one suit I’d avoid the short-sleeved suit as well.

Skirt Suits & Pantyhose

Do I really have to wear pantyhose? In the past, readers have frowned on wearing tights for interviews — and bare legs are certainly not advisable. Nude-for-you hose is the most popular for interviews — check out our advice on how to wear pantyhose if you’re having problems such as runs. For non-interview days, tights are fine — we’ve talked about the best opaque tights, how to launder your tights, and what color tights to wear with a navy suit.

Suit Separates or a Suiting Set?

Separates or a set? A number of suits are sold as a set, with one price (and one size) for both the jacket and the bottom. In general, suiting separates are better — you can buy multiple pieces, and in the size you need for each part. For example, there may be both a matching skirt and a pant, or sometimes even multiple jackets in different cuts. Just make sure you dry clean all of the pieces together so they wear the same.

Before You Wear Your Suit

Before you wear your suit… at the very least, be sure to open any vents that are sewn shut with an X (particularly on the back of the jacket or on the back of the skirt). Pockets may also be sewn shut, but you don’t have to open these — a lot of times items seem to lay better if the pockets are closed (I rip open one blazer pocket so I have a place to stick business cards, but almost always leave pants pockets shut). Tailoring your suit can make a big difference (and may be necessary if you’re petite).  We’ve talked about the most common tailoring alterations that women get, as well as specific topics such as how to tailor a plus-sized blazer. Your blazer doesn’t need to button, at least not absolutely, but it should be close. Buy a suit that fits you — don’t obsess over the size — and wear it with confidence.

Maintaining your suit:  As noted above, you shouldn’t have to dry clean your suit very often, and you should dry clean all of the pieces together so they wear evenly. In the rare event that your suit rips after just a few wears, your first line of defense should be to call the company; after that try taking it to a tailor. When your suit starts to look shiny (or dry cleaning doesn’t take the smell away), it’s time to get a new suit.

Which suiting brands are best? Suit quality differs from brand to brand, but in addition to quality it can be a matter of finding which suits fit your shape. For example, Theory suits are loved by women with a straight figure — but they can be problematic for curvier women, who tend to prefer Ann Taylor or Tahari lines. Meanwhile, petite women’s suiting, tall women’s suiting, and plus-sized workwear and blazers all have their own challenges. Roughly, here are the different tiers:

best women's suits 2018 - affordable, mid-range, and designer suits for women -- great for stylish interview outfits, courtroom attire, or other career-making moments!Where to Find Budget Women’s Suits

Lowest price (under $150 for a suit): Some of the stores you frequented as a teenager do have a surprising number of lower-priced suiting options, such as Express — but while they may be more affordable, the quality may be lesser (and the cuts a bit more sexy) than the sometimes frumpier brands you can find at a sales rack at Smart Bargainsicon or (or their brick-and-mortar equivalents, like T.J.Maxx), such as Kasper or Le Suit. Macy’s has a great selection of suiting separates and sets that are made for Macy’s by designers — their “Everyday Value” or “EDV” line includes AK Anne Klein, Calvin Klein, and Tahari by ASL; Nordstrom also sells those lines (and more expensive suits as well). Chadwicks can also be a source of inexpensive suits if you’re really in a bind. Great deals can also be had at some of the brands’ websites themselves. Here’s our more recent discussion on the best inexpensive women’s suits.

Mid-level ($200-$400 for a suit): Many readers will swear that the quality has changed/is changing on these lines, but for the moment, I consider all of these brands to be the staple of many working women’s wardrobes:  Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, and J.CrewBrooks Brothers cuts can be a bit boxier, but they’re also a great source for mid-level suits; Talbots has also recently started making less boxy cuts for suits.

Expensive: Theory suits are considered the gold standard by many (and sold at NordstromSaksicon, and Bloomingdale’sicon). Hugo Boss also has lovely suits, also available at Saks and Nordstrom. Reiss and L.K. Bennett are both drool worthy as well.

There are obviously other suiting brands out there, many of which I would put in the “power suit with personality” category, including everything from Rebecca Taylor and Nanette Lepore to Armani, St. John’s, Chanel, Akris Punto, and Max Mara — this is the kind of thing that we tend to explore with our regular Wednesday feature, Suit of the Week.

Readers, which are your favorite brands for suits? What do you look for when you’re getting a suit tailored, or when you’re trying to decide between two suits?

Also, please don’t forget to check out other Corporette shopping guides!


  1. Another women’s suit brand I don’t see mentioned is Pendleton. Pendleton suits are wool, they are cut well and they last forever. They sometimes produce several styles of jacket, pant and skirt in a given fabric so someone on a budget could buy several separates and have them all work together. I have especially found that their tweed wools work exceptionally well with anything I choose to put them with. Pendleton can be a little pricey – $275 for a jacket at full price – but they have sales about twice a year where separates go down to under $100 and it becomes very affordable to put a suit together.

    • I would second Pendleton. I love the quality and they come in petite sizes. As quality goes down at my old standbys of JCrew, Ann Taylor and even Talbots, I’ve been eying them more and more.

    • AnonymousFRA :

      Pendleton is also a good choice if you are looking for skirts in slightly longer lengths, as they typically have several 25-27 inch options (whereas JCrew is mostly 21-22inches which, while it may work for some women, is sadly too short for the office for my long legs).

    • San Francisco :

      St. Johns Knit pants for tall size 14 on the bottom is excellent, esp ‘Diana’ pants. With these in black you can wear any jacket. If you wear a separates black jacket and it doesnt match the pants. wear a longer length satin top or shirt that peeks out to break up and interrupt the “non matching black” appearance.

  2. Almost all my suits are from Brooks Brothers. I started buying there after I got pregnant and discovered the glories of tailoring. BB also makes clothes for people that are not size 6. The bad thing about BB is that they are not very trendy. The good thing about BB is that they are not very trendy (so the suits last forever). I try to jazz the suits up with the shirt. You can catch good sales there and they have a great outlet store outside of Houston.

    • Most BB stores will do free or cheap alterations. I’ve bought some great suits at the BB outlet and have taken them to a regular BB store for alterations.

  3. All of my suits are either Banana or J crew. They fit me well and are fairly plain, so can last for several years.

    When I was younger and trendier, I used to get BCBG suits, but now they are a little too much for me style-wise.

    • I bought my first J.Crew Factory suit for college interviews and I love it. The stitching is good quality and the suit is fitted and timeless.

  4. What is the general consensus (or is there one) on wearing pantyhose/knee highs vs. bare feet in a pant suit?

    I just started a new job where I’m wearing a suit 3 days a week. Typically I’ve been wearing boots since it’s still cold and they’re just more comfortable, but when the weather warms I’m not sure what to do.

    • Anon in Ny :

      If your suit is lined, I’d go with knee highs. They’re just more comfortable for me, and easier for me to stick in a bag and slip on at the office. For an unlined suit, I can see why you’d want panythose on underneath to smooth everything out.

    • I go with bare feet in summer and knee-highs in winter. No way am I ever going to wear pantyhose under pants- talk about uncomfortable. I have a lot of unlined pants since I’m in FL and will wear a thong with thinner pants.

    • I think that it all comes down to what you feel comfortable in. Other than the bare feet, which, sometimes (depending on the shoe, pants, and circumstances) can look a little bit too casual (plus it can gross up your shoes a bit), no one else can really tell the difference.

      Generally, I go with hose in the winter (I don’t see a difference in the way the pants look with them, I just like the extra warmth) and knee-highs or bare in the summer, depending on the circumstances and what shoes I’m wearing.

      • Oh, and when I have a pair of hose with a run in them, or I just don’t like the way they look against my deathly white skin, I put a big X on the waistband in permanant marker, and store them in a separate bag in my bathroom closet. That way, I can easily grab those to wear under pants, and save the nice ones for skirts.

        • Sugar Magnolia :

          I love this idea! I just tried to put on a pair of tights this morning that had a big hole in the “control top” part, and was annoyed to find out that they were the same ones I tried on last week. Your solution is simple and effective.

        • christinekwine :

          Brilliant idea!! I never would have thought to do that. Usually I just toss the ones that have ripped!

  5. Classiques Fan :

    I love Classiques Entier suits from Nordstrom. They are expensive at full price ($200 for a jacket, $175 for pants/skirt) but they almost always go on sale, or you can also try finding them at Nordstrom Rack. The brand is particularly good for pear shapes/those with ample hips or derriere. Some of the suits are wool, some are a poly mix.

    • I find it odd that Brooks Brothers is deemed more affordable than CE, but that’s about their price point; in fact, sometimes more.

      • Alias Terry :

        Cost per wear.
        A suit that costs less but becomes worn out sooner costs more per wear than one that costs more upfront but lasts for several years. A BB suit is probably going to last 4 times as long as a CE suit.

  6. What great advice about dry cleaning all pieces of the suit together so they ‘wear’ the same. I was fortunate to find a jacket, skirt and pair of slacks in the Semantiks line at Nordstrom a few years ago, and it’s held up well. (I believe Nordstrom is doing away with this line in favor of Halogen.) I also like the no-iron Foxcroft button-downs from Nordstrom. I have several colors and styles, and they’ve held up well and work nicely with suits.

  7. I’m not so sure about Nordstrom as a reliable resource for suits. I just went shopping for a new interview suit and all they could offer me was Theory. Which is fine — Theory is definitely an acceptable option, if they work on your body. But that’s all they had. And they had only one skirt option in only one color. I buy all my suits at J Crew. They are the only ones who do plain, plain, plain. I have a navy, navy pinstripe, gray pinstripe, and khaki colored suits, all in good quality 100% wool (not something you can reliably get at Ann Taylor, btw) with classic styling. If they ever go out of the suit business, I think I’ll just have to go to Asia and get a bunch made for me. I really don’t know where else I could shop.

    • Chi town lawyer 2 :

      I agree about Nordstrom. I was disappointed in the selection. I was disappointed that the Hugo Boss suit they showed me was unlined, and the sale gal tried to convince me that “all the finer suits are unlined.” I do wish you could find wool suits more often.

      • That actually made me laugh out loud! That salesgirl really had chutzpah, I’ll give her that…

        I have the opposite issue with finding decent suits… too many of them have wool or some other animal fiber– and I’m allergy to them all! It’s really been an issue, along with my plus-sized cartoonishly curvy figure, in finding decent suit pieces

    • Hmmm…it may depend on the store. I shop at the flagship Nordstroms in downtown Seattle and they have a ton of suits and suiting options. It may be that the location you were at targets fewer working women?

      • Jade Moon :

        Yep. I live in Honolulu, and our Nordstrom is hopeless when it comes to suits. I was so pleased when they opened here, but now I find I still most go to S.F. or Seattle for my professional apparel.

  8. An additional benefit of Talbot’s and Brooks Brothers is that they usually have the full line of suit pieces in each fabric/color. Talbot’s has even gone to having two different pants (side-zip and bootcut) and two different jackets with some of their suiting lines. I always try to buy a skirt, pants, a shift (when available) and jacket. They hold up very well, and if you decide to venture into the world of seersucker, Brooks Brothers can’t be beat.

  9. Does anyone have any advice for styling a khaki suit? I bought a lovely khaki pant suit from J.Crew (120s wool, not linen), but I cannot figure out how to style it.

    • I would like some suggestions about this too. I wore a camel colored suit yesterday and while I got several compliments on it, I just felt strange in it. I usually wear black or gray suits and was trying to “break out” a little but I think I need some suggestions on what to wear with the suit, so I don’t feel out-of-sorts when I have it on.

      • Jewel teal is my favourite with camel. Burgundy, ivory, cobalt, kelly green, aqua, navy all work as well. I have more camel basics than black(black doesn’t look great on me)! I am an Indian with olive skin/raven hair and can pull off these colours. Pastels like mint, rose, lemon should work too.

        • Agreed. Camel, as a neutral, goes with literally everything. It depends on the specific shade of camel as to which specific shades of other colours will be best. A good bet is white or cream silk blouse depending on your skin tone, with red lipstick. Very fresh and stylish. I also really like camel with baby blue.

          For a khaki suit I’d do black. But I’d call khaki a neutral also, so just choose what suits you and what you feel good in.

    • I think any light, pastel colors would be great with a khaki suit, so think light pink, baby blue, mint green. I think cream or white would obviously be doable as well. I think blouses and layering pieces should be kept a bit lighter, so nothing too heavy in terms of fabric- think whispy/light/delicate blouses or shells, perhaps in silk crepe or georgette of sorts. Silk scarves in the same colors and light fabrics would also probably do well to put under a khaki suit. I would keep shoes/accessories lighter as well, so think light/reddy browns, creams, bones, or pearls. I think dark brown might work as well, depending on the other outfit choices.

    • I have a khaki suit. I wear it with short sleeved, light, form fitting sweaters. I have two I got years ago at Gap of all places. One is light pink and the other is a baby blue. Add pearls, brown shoes, and it looks nice.

      • I have one light camel colored suit and one kahki suit, and I think they are among my most versatile. You can go preppy as mentioned above by wearing with pastels. Or, one of my favorites is to wear with a simple black form fitting top and go minimalist in a chic calvin klein sort way. Or, sometimes I like to go “city safari” — e.g., wear with a brown or army green august silk top and interesting ethnic jewelry. When I go this route, I usually wear cute brown or metallic flats.

        • Oh, also, depending on the cut of the suit, you could go light monochromatic with a floaty ivory silk top underneath.

        • Ooh, I love this suggestion – I have great ethnic jewelry I don’t get to wear very much. :)

    • You can wear almost any color with a khaki suit since the suit itself is neutral. I don’t wear pastels so pair my khaki suit with jewel tones of green, burgundy and even purple.

      • Eggplant purple looks quite rich with khaki and can also be used with black and gray suits. I love Eddie Bauer’s scoopneck 3/4 sleeve tees for work. I bought their eggplant colored one to go with my khaki work pants and I wear it allll the time.

    • Oh, I would love to own a khaki- or camel-colored suit one day! I’d pair it with a black cashmere turtleneck (for a “classic American sportswear” look), or maybe red or a dark green.

  10. As someone who needs plus size on top and can fit standard range on the bottom, I’m a big fan of Nordstrom’s Halogen suits (they used to also carry a house brand called Semantiks, but now they have a plus-only brand called Sejour that has some nice pieces). And this might surprise folks, but I bought a plain black lightweight wool suit from Land’s End, and it’s great. A smaller plus designer I like who sometimes does suiting is Darren Trentacosta.

    • Ms. Basil E. Frankweiler :

      I’ve been eyeing some items in Trentacosta, but was concerned about the quality. Can you speak to that?

    • Sugar Magnolia :

      Thank you for posting about larger sizes. I am in need of some new work clothing, and have been at a loss.

  11. Re Theory suits:

    I bought one recently, as have several of my newly minted attorney friends. No less than five of us have had the same exact problem with the skirt suit RIPPING up the back. It might just be their current line or the fabric they are using, but we all have holes in the back of the skirt. I’ve even taken mine to the tailor and had an additional seam sewn in where the holes were appearing. Now there are new holes. Horrifying, considering the money spent.

    YMMV. For the cut I agree they are beautiful and hands down the gold standard. But yours truly, along with about four friends, are not at all impressed with the quality.

    • If you bought it at Nordstrom, I’d say take it back. They are excellent about returns, and if you bought it recently and the quality is bad, I’m sure they would take it back.

      • Update to this – I bought the skirt over a year ago at Bloomingdales. The first time the holes appeared, I took it to the tailor. The second time, when I took it back to the tailor, she told me I should try to take it back.

        I took it to Bloomies yesterday, without the receipt, and they gave me a brand new skirt with no questions asked. I LOVE that place.

        • I also had issues with Theory stuff–looked great, but wrinkled immediately and the dye of the jacket bled onto my white silk blouse. They took it back, but I think there are issues with the quality with theory.

  12. I am in the market for a new suit now. I had a fabulous black one from JCrew that I wore for 10 years+, everything from funerals to hot parties. It finally gave up the ghost.

    I really like extended-tab pants … does anyone know where I can find them? I’ve looked at the usual suspects and it’s hook-n-eye everywhere. I like the extended tab because the regular one has a tendency to twist and poke out during the day, even if it fits fine.

  13. J. Crew is my favorite go-to suit. Their longs (36”) are actually long enough for me to wear with heels and the material is fabulous for the hot and humid summers in San Antonio. I always buy the slacks, skirt, and jacket so I can get the most out of the suit. Does anyone have any other suggestions for tall women because I have found many longs are 34” and for me, that doesn’t cut it with heels. I would LOVE to not have to tailor all of my slacks!

    • Have you tried Talbots? I know many of their tall pants come in a 35″ inseam, which might be long enough…

  14. My favorite suits are Elie Tahari (not Tahari by ASL, etc the other brands) — and I actually prefer them to Theory suits for people on the small end who don’t fit into Donna Karan, Banana Republic, J.Crew suits. I’ve been able to find these at Macy’s in New York and Bloomingdales.

    • Tahari suits are awesome for petites as well.

    • I second the recommendation for Elie Tahari, and would add Lafeyette 148 as well. Both are in the priciest category, but can often be found discounted at Bloomingdales or Nordstrom.

    • Thanks for that. I live in NYC and am having trouble finding good suiting for my non-petite small frame. Will try Macys tonight.

  15. Anonymous :

    Kat, can you include at least a few plus size options in your where to shop recommendations on these style guide posts? Thanks.

    • Anonymous :

      My favorite for plus size suiting is Talbots. Especially their Womans Petites. I’m 5’2″ and it’s the only place I could find with suits that didn’t need to be hemmed/tailored and didn’t make me look like I was playing dress up. Plus they sometimes have some pretty amazing sales if you hit them at the right moment.

      • Second Talbots! I need a womens petite on top and a regular womens on the bottom. It’s nice to be able to mix and match. My one caution is that their unlined suits do not hold up. I still will buy them, but only at deep discounts.

  16. Just want to say. For many corporations, where one is not a lawyer, a skirt suit would actually scare employers off.

  17. In some companies and industries, tech in particular, a skirted suit for an interview is too formal, and therefore outside the culture.

    • I have to agree, and add into that geographic area. In my city women only wear skirt suits for formal charity luncheons or dinners, or to very dressy weddings, and then the suits are the kind of thing Corporetters have said are not office-appropriate – bright colors, tweed or boucle fabric, feminine detailing, etc. The most “conservative” thing I ever see anyone wear is a plain black pantsuit, and even then people usually wear big jewelry or a bright-colored shell to “jazz” it up. The only women you routinely see in navy, black or gray skirt suits are religious missionaries. It’s something to consider for women from the East Coast, Chicago or San Francisco who may be interviewing in Sun Belt state that is less formal. YMMV.

  18. Ann Taylor makes suits in a lovely fabric called “tropical wool”–mostly wool with a bit of synthetic for stretch. They have pants (curvy, modern, and signature styles), jacket, and pencil skirt, and occasionally a sheath. They’ve been making suits out of this material for at least the past few seasons, so you know that what piece you’re buying will match what you already have purchased. It seems like every season they have black and charcoal gray, and then a third more “casual” color (right now it’s a light gray pinstripe, a couple months ago it was some shade of brown, methinks).

  19. I am a 1L, and just had to buy a new suit for interviews. Law school has, sadly, led to some weight gain and I refused to squeeze myself into a slightly too small suit!

    Regardless, I ended up going with the Anne Klein separates at Macy’s. I was able to get a full skirt suit for under $150.00. It is charcoal grey, single button, very plain but cut really nicely.

    I should mention that I am 5’7″, have long legs for my height, and a very curvy hourglass figure. It can be a challenge to find suits that are flattering to my figure without being either too boxy or too sexy-looking. This one hit just the right chord, and since it was separates, I was able to go with a 10 on the bottom and an 8 up top and avoid tailoring. I have gotten multiple compliments, both from the people in my career services office and my colleagues. I even had an interviewer mention that they liked it. VERY pleased with my purchase, and thought I’d share in case anyone else was looking for a suit on a budget!

    • Hey, thanks for posting that!
      I too am 5.7 ten on bottom and 8 on top!
      My main problem is to get the suit to be long enough to cover half my heel! I hate pants that look too short and I like wearing 4-5 inch heels.

      • Eleacouise :

        Old lady lawyer here (29 yrs of litigation bliss and many, many interviews of law students for clerks & associates). Skip the 4-5 inch heals in the interview and thereafter professionally unless you want to be mistaken for a secretary. Sorry if that sounds harsh. I once had a partner nix an otherwise-stellar candidate because she wore a red suit to interview, too. Hate to say it, but what you wear to the interview either says, “I know the rules and use them effectively,” or “I don’t.”

  20. My favorite suits are almost all from Tristan in Montreal (Tristan is the women’s side and America is the men’s – They also have a store in NYC at 49th & 6th, but I love to hit their sale racks in Montreal whenever I get up there – great deals, and great clothes. They are conservative, but with a modern twist – I like to call it “funky conservative.” I can find clothing that is conservative enough for the most professional of settings, but that lets me show off my own personal style and doesn’t leave me feeling frumpy. They are nicely tailored, well-made, comfortable, and last a long time. Plus, they are a little different, so you don’t feel like you’re wearing that same thing that everyone else is wearing this season too.

    • I didn’t know that there’s a Tristan in New York! I bought a gorgeous dress from the store in Ottawa. Will definitely head over to the NY store for suiting options.

  21. My two favorite suits are from Benetton – for some reason, the shape of those suits really fits me. But recently, the quality of the fabric has gone downhill – wool suits are increasingly hard to find.

  22. For the super petite Corporettes out there, meaning size OO in Theory, please share what conservative skirt suits you wear! (I know we discussed this in an old thread, but I do not recall suggestions other than Theory). Please feel free to discuss suits at diverse price points. Thanks!

    • I know this brand is often looked down on as ‘intern wear’ but I’ve really had some great luck finding 00 size pants at Express. I’ve put on 5 lbs so we’ll see how long that works, but they are a life-saver when Banana, J. Crew et al. don’t fit. Plus they are in separates so you can get a larger jacket if needed (I need their 4). I find the longer-styled jackets look more professional for me (I have long legs so it balances the look). Hope that helps.

    • I am in that size category, and would love to see other comments on this, because I am having a hard time finding suits that don’t require additional tailoring (besides hemming). As I said just above, I’ve had very good luck with Benetton – their size 38 pants and jackets fit me more often than not. Other than that, I have separates from Theory, Ann Taylor, and Banana Republic (just the jacket, all BR pants fall off me). Hope this helps!

    • I am very, very petite – 5’1″, and barely a OOP. I actually had surprising success looking for suits today at Brooks Brothers. Their OP is really tiny – and their OP button down was even too small! I was (happily) shocked!

  23. My suits are all Lafayette 128. You can get them at Nordstrom, Saks, Neimans, Lord & Taylor, or order direct from their website.
    They have a great sale going on right now. They are very pricey but worth it. They also have plus sizes.

    For tops, I prefer a short sleeve shell. Jones New York has a good basic silk blend short sleeve shell in a variety of colors.,default,pd.html

    • You can also find Lafayette 128 suits at a discount on They’re always running additional savings specials that you can find by going to

  24. My suits are all Lafayette 148. Pricey but well worth it. You can buy them at Nordstrom’s, Saks, Neimans, Lord & Taylor, or order direct from their website — They are having a great sale right now.

    For tops, I prefer a short sleeve shell. Jones New York makes a good basic silk blend shell in a variety of colors.,default,pd.html

  25. Sort for the double post. Don’t know how I did that.

  26. Great post and just in time for me. I’m starting a new position at a hedge fund next month and I’ve been debating whether to go with the expensive Theory (Gabe B jacket + Max C pants) or a less expensive Ann Taylor suit. I honestly thought the BR quality just wasn’t worth it.

    My big problem though is what to wear underneath it. Button down shirts tend to gap on me even with my best bra (34D with broad shoulders and a small waist) but going with a softer shell doesn’t have the same professional look. Any suggestions?

    • I like to wear a sweater vest or a suit vest on top of my button downs- it solves the gapping issue and helps the collar stay in place better. It tends to add a preppy or menswear vibe to the suit, but I’m ok with both of those.

    • Check out Rebecca and Drew for custom fitted button downs based on your bra size/torso shape. I’ve never been able to wear button downs (I’m more like a 34 DDD) and I was able to order one that worked for me! They’re a little pricy, about $110, but if nothing else has worked for you and you really want a button down, they’re a great option.

  27. I recently discovered Tocca, very pricey, but the wool is substantial and conservative, the styling is interesting but not young, and i dont hate myself when i have to go wearing suits for a week or so straight. i’ve only bought a few heavy wool winter suits so far, but i bought the dress/blazer and skirt/blazer combos and am very very pleased

  28. Sam–I have the same problem (gaping button down shirts) but noticed that if I get a shirt of synthetic material (silky-type, no iron) I don’t have the same problem (even in button-down style). Wore one today — a little bigger size than I’d normally wear, but it was tucked into skirt and I had a nicely tailored jacket over, you couldn’t tell. I think this is a more conservative look than sweater under suit (although I wear that a lot in the office on more casual days).

  29. NYClawyer :

    I’m a huge fan of Theory. The best thing about it, for me, is that I can literally roll up a Theory suit in a ball, stuff it in my gym bag the night before, and it’ll still look flawless the next morning after my workout.

    A lot of people have commented that these suits only fit a certain body type. I think that’s true to some extent, but I’d encourage you to try a range of sizes. I’m consistently a 4 in pretty much every brand, but I’ve worn everything from a 2 to an 8 in their suits. Also, this definitely isn’t a line for petite ladies. I’m 5’10, and I’ve had to get these shortened.

  30. What about a dress and suit jacket? Perhaps with a very light, thin silk scarf? Would this be appropriate for an interview or just once one’s been hired?

    • Law Student :

      I think it really depends on your profession, and where you work. However, I would not wear a dress and suit jacket to an interview. It may be alright wearing the outfit once you’ve been hired.

  31. My tip is that bigger-busted ladies should look for more buttons on a suit jacket (preferably 3-button suits) so as to de-emphasize the bust.

  32. Kat, can you clarify if “curvy” means hourglass, or a euphemism for someone carrying extra weight? We’ve all got to shop, but I have an hourglass figure and find that the term “curvy” is often co-opted for the latter. I’d love to know!

    • Even when I was a size 2-4 I would have had to buy a size 8-10 in Theory for my hips and then tailor in the waist — so I mean hourglassy. But, as they say, ymmv.

  33. What about made to measure and custom suiting? I have 2 made to measure suits from NYC designer Kal Rieman ( and have worn the 2 pieces separately and together so many times it factors out to pennies per wear. I wear both with her double collar button down shirt and always receive compliments. Great high quality alternative to buying off the rack.

  34. I’m a 2L and recently bought several suits online for some upcoming interviews from They fit well, but my pant suit turned out to be made with a midnight blue denim material (from far it looks like a tight pinstripe). I’m interviewing for entertainment law positions (not necessarily in firms) which are usually a little bit less conservative… can I wear the suit (it’s my favorite cut of the 3 suits I own), or should I just chalk this suit up as a loss?

  35. To echo JessicaD’s comment – Are shift dresses / sheaths with a jacket appropriate for an interview? Macys has a number of options for shirts, sheaths, pants and blazers in their suit selection and I havent read much about this type of suit for interviews? Thank you!

  36. I have some major scarring on my lower legs, so I feel that skirts are completely inappropriate. However, I do want to be taken seriously in a pantsuit. Is this really such a big deal on the skirts vs pants?

  37. Halfway through my first year of law school (3 years ago now, eeep), I used my tax return to hit up an awesome sale at J. Crew and invest in a “Super 120s” 100% wool charcoal grey skirt suit. It was the best decision I ever made. It is my go-to interview suit because it’s timeless and conservative yet feminine when paired with a shell in a muted color. It has also worn very well (all I do is steaming between wears to get the wrinkles out while stretching out dry cleanings). I like J. Crew suiting because the petite versions fit my 5’3″ frame without alterations, and they offer (or at least used to offer) 3-button jackets, which seem to be pretty much the only style I can wear well. The pieces are very affordable if you can get them on sale, and well worth the investment.

  38. The current styles were founded in the revolution during the early 19th century that sharply changed the elaborately embroidered and jewelled formal clothing into the simpler clothing of the British Regency period, which gradually evolved to the stark formality of the Victorian era. It was in the search for more comfort that the loosening of rules gave rise in the late 19th century to the modern lounge suit. Thanks.

  39. Dooney13456 :

    I keep coming back to this thread in the hope that some loyal Corporette follower can recommend a suiting option for petites who are frustrated by AT’s lack of offering in petite sizes and who want to invest on great work pieces that are classic but current. Talbots ebbs and flows but still leans towards a more mature style and JCrew is better for my 23 year old daughter than me. I love Theory but their jackets are just to larger overall for a 5′ 108 lb frame. Any suggestions? I’m in a shopping mood and want some great pieces for Fall.

  40. Hi- First of all- thank you for all your posts!! I have an interview next Tuesday and I live in Michigan. It’s at the corporate HQ of a manufacturing/plant environment. The recruiter advised me that it’s a very conservative environment (and I sense it’s also a male-dominated and not very fashion savvy environment), fwiw. So I was wondering if a very plain black sheath dress with black blazer and black tights and black Tori Burch ballet flats (the standard ones with the gold metal symbol on them) and some pearls would be too severe looking or ok. I cannot wear heels and feel a bit dorky wearing such flimsy flats in Michigan, but I am also unemployed so if I can get away with the flimsy shoes, I guess I should :). If not, I’d appreciate suggestions about other kinds of flats. Thanks!!

  41. ArticlingStudent :


    I am also interested to hear more about the jacket + dress option for suits. First, is this option appropriate for court? Second, does anyone know of good places to find them? (I live in Canada, so Macys and Bloomingdales aren’t options for me).

  42. This is great advice. What does everyone think of a 3/4 sleeve suit jacket for an attorney in the courtroom in summer. Still a dark color (forest green) and a tailored skirt suit, but the sleeves stop just below the elbow. It’s seriously hot in TX in the summer.

  43. midwest mom :

    Great post… I advise busines students on how to prepare for interviews. This hits the mark on almost all accounts -I tell student that a pantsuit is fine. I recommend The Limited for most students.. they run a great great sale in the fall and a student can get a nice suit for around $150. Thanks Kat!

  44. I know this is an old thread, but I didn’t see any mention of White House Black Market anywhere. I *love* their suits. They have the usual neutral standards (in flattering cuts with lovely details, even for curvy DDs and up to size 16). I am 40’s and don’t feel the clothes are too “hip” for my age group. They also have really lovely colors that cycle routinely (currently it’s burgundy – gorgeous and THE color this fall season!) While some may be a little too colorful for Big Law, their staple suits are certainly appropriate. It’s very easy to buy 2 tops, 2 pants/skirts, a jacket and cardigan and mix/match to create a week’s worth of outfits – and many times other items previously purchased also go very well together. The color cycles usually seem to complement each other, so last month’s cardigan will go with this month’s shell.

    They also have a frequent buyer/reward “club,” and so I get coupons & GC regularly, a lifetime 5% discount & lifetime free shipping (although I love going to the shop because the girls are fantastic and it turns into a fun 3-4 hour afternoon! I just end up spending more than I intended!) New arrivals are mid-range ($350-400 for matched suit), but quickly go to the sale rack (because of the constant new new arrivals) and can be very reasonable. And as a road warrior consultant, I love the wrinkle-free, machine washable Perfect Form line. WHBM is pretty much all I ever wear for work!

  45. Fred G. Sanford :

    Looking for a job interview suit for my wife has led me to the internet to vent my frustration. The search for something as simple as a suit jacket and matching bottom has highlighted the fact that men and women are supremely different in every aspect of nature.
    We went to countless stores and could not find anything remotely close to this concept, that seemed so elementary to me. When I want a suit, I go to the store, and there are hundreds of them. Right there. The pants and the jacket together. Bingo, piece of cake!

    However, when browsing the women’s section, there were bottoms galore, but no tops. Then there were tops, with no bottoms. Then there were bottoms and tops, but they were different colors. If you want a skirt to go with the top, you’d might as well look for a time machine. And if you want a skirt that doesn’t stop at the crack of your behind, a time machine won’t even help you. Then, there was nothing.

    My wife reminded me that the current generation doesn’t really dress in a classy fashion. The emphasis is on skin tight pants and tops that cover as little of your body as possible. Ladies want their tattoos, cleavage, hips and rear to show. Mixing and matching patterns, blah, blah , blah…… all left my head spinning.
    Then, the sizes were so unreasonable. Everything was designed to fit teeny-tiny people with no curves, while every woman in every store was bigger with curves everywhere. It’s like the clothes are designed to accommodate fantasy, not reality and the women try their best to squeeze into things that don’t fit them.
    The funny thing is that men pay no attention to any of that stuff.

    Wow, a top and a matching bottom. What’s so hard about that?

    • sue z. q. :

      Amen Fred!
      I was just trying to explain this to my husband. I am a petite size 8 woman with curves. I need a suit for a job interview and all they have in the department stores are really bright color jackets and pencil skirts and tight pants that would only fit someone who is basically a stick figure. Then there’s my favorite…the suits where the size 8 jacket fits but not the size 8 pants. I am at a loss. Do I buy just anything as my husband advises (not understanding what I’m dealing with) or do I just forget about the interview all together and settle, staying in a job I’m not happy with.

  46. I have a Liz Claiborne suit and it meets my needs just fine. I’ve had it for over a year and it’s still in very good condition. The fit is very good, and the quality is great for the price. I’ve expanded my wardrobe with a lot of stuff from there and I’m very happy with it all

  47. Business College Career Coach :

    This should be required reading for every female business college graduate in America. I would add/reinforce
    1) To stay away from button-up blouses with a suit. The girls can get in the way and exploding buttons/or gapes are not confidence builders. I like the comment above about appearing as wait staff.
    2) Amen to heel height… you must be able to walk. I suggest nothing more than 3 inches and I’m even okay with flats. Our career fairs are on concrete floors. I once had a student comment that she normally only wore her 5 inch heels when she was wasted. If your shoes are only comfortable if you are wasted… not what you wear to an interview.
    3) FIT is key. If I can see the outline of your thong then it’s too tight. I love the suggestion about sitting down… crossing your legs…moving around in your suit before you buy it.

    This needs to the most professional you have ever looked. Great tips everyone

  48. Why did Theory stop making the fabulous, perfectly-fitting “Gabe” blazer? It was my go-to for years and now I wish I’d bought 10 in each c0l0r!

  49. I am curious which brands could be good for suites without wool or suits that are more appropriate for a NYC summer?

  50. I have a real problem finding two-piece skirt suits that fit. I have a very extreme pear shape (size 8-10 top and 14 hips), long torso and short legs. Similar to Kim Kardashin. If I had the money then I would get suits made to measure, but unfortunately I’m broke and stuck with trying to hunt down a suit in UK shops. Do you know of anywhere that makes office clothing for women like me? I’ve been called in for an interview next week and my one two-piece that used to fit me is now too tight. I’ve tried all the highstreet shops and they only seem to make skirt/jacket combos for hourglass or square shapes. I have plain black trousers that would just about match with the existing jacket, but trousers really do not suit me due to my very wide hips. I’m at a dead end here and the company isn’t one that would be impressed with anything less than a two-piece. Any ideas?

  51. Are you kidding me?? Everything in your picture above is super expensive. This blog targets women only in highly lucrative career and not even mid level engineeers or technical jobs. If you add all above, it is more than 10 k.

    Please try to not make this world so material. Even those who have that much money should not spend so much just on clothes and watch and jewels. We have some responsibility towards the world and society we live in.

  52. Elaine Brimley weller :

    I did not read the comments, but would add the bag is best if it looks a bit like a briefcase then, and the suit should come with two pairs pants, two skirt lengths, a dress, a 2nd style jacket. Longer jackets have their purpose, but if tall, like me, jewel neck jacket is nice, softer look. That neckline, AND sister length jacket then?

  53. Tarheelbabs :

    Although I wouldn’t have gravitated toward St. John and Misook in my 20s and 30s, the beauty of these two brands is they don’t wrinkle. Plus Misook is machine washable. I’ve seen elsewhere on this blog a caution against purchasing from eBay, but I’ve had great luck purchasing both of these brands from eBay, Poshmark, and Tradesy for very good value. Their sizing is generally consistent, so my primary concern is making ngbsure the seller has good ratings. And as a lawyer, albeit not corporate, I think the profession has loosened up tremendously on appropriate workwear since I began practicing in the early 90s.

  54. Where can one find a suit made of natural materials anymore? It’s all polyester or wool with some kind of polyester. All men’s suits are all wool, but women’s suits are relegated to crappy plastic suits. And they are just as expensive if not more than the men’s all natural fiber suits. I call bullshit!

    • I was asking myself this same question. It is beyond frustrating shopping for work wear. As far as natural material suits for women go, so far I found a few Brooks Brothers and with BlueSuits. If Sumissara used rayon or cupro lining that would be great, but currently, all their suits are lined with polyester. It would be great if there was a listing of natural material suits (especially wool).

  55. I had my knee replaced, so I have a six inch scar on my knee that I am self conscious about. Is there a something between tights and nylons that will hide the scar. I know my knees aren’t where most will be looking, but I am still self conscious.


  57. Great information if you want to buy at wholesale price

  58. I am extremely impressed thanks for sharing all information regarding women suiting. It is a great post for the people to get the proper information about women suiting. You have the right information. Thanks for such post and keep it up.

  59. Edris Davis :

    I am so glad I found this website. I am in the process of buying a new wadrobe but prefer to research first. I bought the talbots, Ann Taylor but they have worn out. It did not last. I even shopped at Ross but only few pieces last. I vow my next work wadrobe it must be of good quality. I love this reiss line you can purchase at Bloomingdales. I am in the profession of hr . Would you suggest purchasing suits in winter or now. I feel it is better quality in the winter.

  60. It was importance to me, thanks to the author for taking out some of your precious time and sharing your thoughts on this topic. Great Blog!

  61. Can you recommend some brands that specialize in Petite sizes? I used to work at Petite Sophisticate, a boutique rolled into Casual Corner, its parent company. Our suits and separates were made of quality fabrics. They were expensive, but when wearing regular-size clothing makes you look like you shopped in the grown-ups’ section, they were necessary.

    Ditto for the fabric. I see that fabric is on here, but not specifics: What’s best for this suit, this style, this fit, this price, this weather, *most* weather, etc.


  62. I’ve been out of the corporate world for a decade (wearing pajamas and combat boots in the military) but am I missing something, or is it suddenly okay to wear polyester suits? I’m currently restocking and I’m shocked at how it features in the majority of suiting, even in towards the mid-level brands.
    I can’t shake the notion that they look and feel cheap.

  63. lynn arouh :

    I used to go to Ann Taylor for the suits and professional clothing, but have been very disappointed lately. Trendy and not classic, which is why I used to by my clothing there. I need help and need A.T. to get back on point.

  64. Great site. Not your typical gal, I’m no fan of clothes shopping being 5’2″ with normal curves. Truly dislike the whole needle in the haystack effort & just don’t have the time. Wish there was a female equal of Men’s Warehouse for women’s suiting basics & maybe business casual. Casual Corner/PS did for a while but… No more.

    My new favorite brand is Evan-Picone, but have had decent success with Kasper, Ann Taylor, Calvin Klien, Tahari & ONE Caslon suit.

    QUESTION 1: Is there a best season to hit the stores to refresh my suit wardrobe?

    I prefer more conservative, DARK (blue, black, dk gray/khaki, sometimes dk burgundy/brown), LINED, 2-3 button jacket, pockets a must on jacket, PANT/pant option suits. Wool or poly/poly blend ok as long as it doesn’t look like it will be a magnet for stains (restaurant mgmt). Solids or chalk stripe ok, no flashy pinstripes.

    QUESTION 2: any guidance on bespoke suits?

  65. Amanda Gibson :

    I have shoe questions. I abhor any heel, and really dislike flats as well. This guide makes no mention of Oxfords or other styles of shoes, can I wear Oxfords with a pantsuit? Loafers? I want to work in a lab someday (I’m a student now), and we’re required to wear sturdy, closed-toed shoes and are often on our feet throughout the day. Although day-to-day labwork isn’t going to require interview level dress, I want to dress professionally on the job. I’m studying to buy my first suit for an upcoming conference and have a good pair of flats ready for that, but when I can afford it I’m planning on getting some nice Oxfords for my business shoe in the future.

  66. Thanks for such an amazing and informative article. Last year on my visit to Singapore, I came across Prince Custom Tailors who tailored me the well-fitted dress for the occasion.

  67. I got 4 piece suit blazer knee length pencil skirt pants and white button down blazer from walmart. I got in black. I loved it so much. I got in blue also and gray. It ia from

  68. Literally this is a very helpful article for me. I am always confused about my dresses whenever going to attend an interview. Thank you for giving the idea about different dresses and accessories which is under my budget. I used to shop from closet upgrade they also provide very elegant classy clothes & accessories.

  69. Great guide! I like this article so much. Thanks a lot for sharing.

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