The Hunt: Navy Suits

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

As law and MBA students everywhere gear up for interview week on campus, I thought we’d round up an interview classic: navy suits. Somewhere down the line, the navy suit became known as “THE power suit,” and I remember wondering whether I could wear a black suit or a gray suit for interviews. The answer: sure you can. But a navy suit is still a great thing to have, so I thought I’d round up some for today’s Hunt. Readers, what is your favorite suit color for interviews?  Have you ever had a bad experience (either as an interviewer or interviewee) with someone in a black or gray suit?  (Psst: check out The Corporette Guide to Suits for more suiting advice.)

Tahari Arthur S. Levine Four-Button Skirt SuitI often advise against buying a suit that’s sold as one (a single price for the whole suit) — but if you’re bargain shopping, this may be the first line of attack. For example: this Tahari Arthur S. Levine Four-Button Skirt Suit, which was $280 but is now marked to $56 at Lord & Taylor – try promo code STYLE to take an extra 15% off sale items. Tahari Arthur S. Levine Four-Button Skirt Suit
Anne Klein One-Button Blazer & Classic Pencil SkirtIn the spirit of full disclosure: I did work with Anne Klein a few years ago to help promote, in part, their EDV line at Macy’s. But I still honestly recommend them — the “every day value” lines from a bunch of different brands (Anne Klein, Calvin Klein, etc) are great places to start if you’re looking for basic suiting separates. This Anne Klein set comes with a one-button blazer for $99.98, straight-leg pants for $64.98, and a pencil skirt for $54.98, all available in “midnight sky.” Anne Klein One-Button Blazer & Classic Pencil Skirt
Tropical Wool Two-Button JacketAnn Taylor or Banana Republic are the first places a lot of women get their first suit, and true to form, both have navy suits for sale right now. Note: some of these are online exclusives, so be sure that you’re ordering matching pieces — for example, this jacket from Ann Taylor is described as being tropical wool, the color is called “dark navy” and it is style # 281046 — you can tell it matches the Savoy skirt because that also is described as “tropical wool” (you can also look at the fabric composition to see if it’s the same), has a similar style number (#282134) and is also described as being “dark navy.” The jacket is $198, and the skirt is $108.
Talbots Kate Fit Seasonless Wool Notched-Collar JacketI’ve been impressed with Talbots’ suiting options — and they have so many different pieces for each suit set that you can really get a lot of variety. I’ve featured the Grace Fit single-breasted seasonless wool jacket here, but there are four other blazers in seasonless wool, as well as wideleg, bootcut, straight pants, three kinds of skirts, and a wool vest. Not too bad. The jacket is $199; the other pieces range from $99-$199. OH: And most of the pieces come in sizes for regular, petites, talls, woman, and woman petites. Talbots Kate Fit Seasonless Wool Notched-Collar Jacket
Theory "Gabe" BlazerTheory suiting is a classic, and a lot of women buy this for their first “good” suit. Bloomingdale’s has the Gabe blazer in indigo for $395, and matching Max C pants for $265. (It’s also available in black, charcoal, and light heather, pictured here.) Theory “Gabe” Blazer
BOSS Black Button Closure Stretch JacketOur most expensive option today: this lovely BOSS Black suit, available at Saks. The jacket is $575, and the bootcut pants are $275. I like that both have a bit of stretch to them. BOSS Black Button Closure Stretch Jacket

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  1. I’d love to wear navy, but for some reason no matter what color shoe/accessories I pair with navy I feel like it looks less put together/polished than when I wear black. This is probably just because I am boring with my wardrobe and have yet to get out of the black/gray/beight rut, but would love recommendations on how to pair navy.

    • It also doesn’t help that whenever stores have pictures of models in certain outfits they cut off the look at the leg so I can never see what shoes they are wearing! (probably none).

    • emcsquared :

      I have a pair of gray faux-snakeskin pumps from Ann Taylor that I love with navy. Also a pair of dark burgundy leather shoes (almost cordovan, but cheaper…) that work well with navy. Brown is usually good, but my dog chewed up my good pair of brown shoes and I haven’t replaced them yet (sigh).

    • I wear dark navy shoes with a dark navy suit, just like I wear black shoes with a black suit. Right now my go-to dark navy shoes are Cole Haan Air Lainey pumps, but before that I had a pair of Ann Taylor pumps that I wore into the ground.

    • I wear it with black, just like you see the menfolk doing, or with grey. I have a navy suit with a light grey pinstripe that looks fabulous with dark violet pumps,too. Navy is a neutral – the world is your oyster :).

      • I think black shoes are fine with navy. I wear patent black pumps or flats. I think it looks sharp, like an airplane pilot.

        Brown shoes also go with navy, or any other color (purple, maroon, dark green, etc.).

    • I wear black if it’s not a “true” navy (i.e. the navy is not super dark to the point where it looks like I thought I was wearing a black suit and put on black shoes by mistake) or dark brown.

    • lawsuited :

      My safe interview combination is navy suit + grey pumps + white shell, but I also wear nude-for-me, burgundy and black pumps with my navy separates.

    • I have some patent oxblood booties that I think work well with my navy pantsuit. Not quite brown, not quite red, enough menswear vibe to be conservative.

    • I love a navy suit! For an interview I pair with a white button down, a coral leather laptop bag, and brown or navy shoes. For the office, I love to wear my navy suit with tops in various prints, or the colors orange, red, yellow, coral, grey, or tan.

    • I’d say, particularly in interviews, for a more polished, professional look, go with black shoes. Otherwise, as another comment said, navy is a neutral, so brown, black, maroon, anything is acceptable with it—and men have been pairing the two together for years. No need to worry anymore about mixing black and navy.


    • Spring/summer, I really like coral, lime green, and mustard yellow with navy. I will wear shells in those colors underneath the navy suit, with nude pumps.

      Fall/winter – jewel tones. Magenta is really nice with navy.

      I bought a chunky black necklace which really helps pull a navy suit/black shoes outfit together. It makes it look like the black is intentionally part of the outfit, and not like I threw the shoes on as an afterthought because I didn’t have anything else to go with the outfit. Black handbags, scarves, or patterns in a shirt can have the same effect.

      • Love the idea of using other accessories to make black shoes work with navy. I’ll definitely be trying that out!

  2. Love my navy suit. It’s from Brooks Brothers – which sells suits as separates and comes in regular, petite, and tall sizes. Bonus points that I got it at the outlet store for a steal on one of my holiday weekend shopping excursions.

  3. I love navy suits. I find it much easier to pair them with tops because I really dislike the way black suits look with most colors (not counting neutrals) and with navy, it’s not really as much of a problem for me.

    Grey is also tricky for me because while I love some shades, I really don’t find others very flattering on me. I love brown but it’s really hard to find a good brown suit. So navy is my go-to. I am looking forward to people’s navy suit suggestions.

    • +1

      I also like to do navy with a very light blue top (either solid or print). It is one of the few times that I feel that tone-on-tone looks right on me.

  4. J.Crew will often have a navy option as well.

    That said, I always went gray or black (almost always the gray) for interviewing (Philly biglaw), and don’t own a navy suit. With navy, you’re always wondering what shoes to wear (brown too casual somehow, black classic but feels mismatched even though it’s “right,” nude or gray too trendy, although that’s what I wear with navy around the office, cordovan too hard to find for women…..)

    • Jcrew has a navy option right now! The super 120s stuff. I just got the skirt suit and it looks sharp. Wore with silver/grey ferragamos.

  5. I looked for ages for a navy suit but never found one that I loved. Recently picked up a great navy pencil skirt and a navy and white striped blazer from BR. Question – do I have any hope of wearing the blazer past Labour Day or is it a summer only piece?

    • Perhaps others are more creative, but I have a hard time picturing a navy and white striped blazer outside of summer/spring. I’m assuming the white is pretty prominent. If the white stripe is subtle (more like a pinstripe), that may open up some winter/fall options. But I imagine that you could get a lot of use out of the blazer. If you have a little-white-dress, the blazer would be a fun addition for events, dates, etc.

  6. Since we’re talking about navy/blue – what color cardigan would you wear with blue tops for work? I have a few tops in a range of colors from more cobalt blue to dark navy, but I always struggle with what I can wear with them (too cold in my office to not wear a cardigan or blazer).

    • emcsquared :

      I wear cream, pink, green, yellow and gray cardigans with blue tops. Have also worn brown, maroon, and purple cardigans with various shades of blue.

    • Almost anything! I’ve been wearing a lot of purple with navy or blue lately (thanks to the purple shoes I got due to this site!), but also an emerald green (more with navy), darker blue with lighter blue, and if you can pull of mustard (I can’t), that can be gorgeous too….

    • lawsuited :

      Red! I just bought the most fantastic orange-red cardigan to wear with my navy pants and skirts. So excited!

  7. I bought a navy suit from the Limited a few months ago, which has served me very well so far. Love that it comes in three pieces (and the pencil skirt and pants are both super comfortable and super flattering). I have a hard time finding clothes that fit as a petite, size 16ish, not quite plus-sized gal, but this suit has been fantastic. I also think navy is nice for summer, when a black suit seems a bit too severe.

    • My navy suit is Limited, too. I ended up getting pinstripe pants and solid blazer, so it’s maybe not formal enough to be “interview,” but I still think it’s pretty sharp. Fits better than anything in my closet.

    • A vote for Talbots for this hard to find size: Their women’s plus goes down to 12W, the regular sizing often up to 18 or 20, and they have petites in both those lines, so you could be a 14WP, or a 16P. There is a lot of overlap for “inbetweenies” in the 12-14-16-18 zone.

  8. Shopping Threadjack:

    Thoughts on this structured straw bag? Work-appropriate for NYC? How would you style it? Which seasons can you pull this off? It costs $35 from R&Em, a cheap line by Rebecca Minkoff. TIA!

    • eastbaybanker :

      Well, I’m on the left coast, but that looks pretty casual to me. It’s a cute bag, but I would save it for the weekends.

  9. Just bought a navy suit from Ann Taylor in that tropical wool and am very happy with it. Also have a heavier weight navy suit from Calvin Klein that is also great (and that I got at Marshall’s – shhhh)

  10. Nude shoes w navy. Looks great.

    My problem is with navy skirts in the winter. I still haven’t found a pair of tights that is the goes-with-navy equivalent of opaque black tights with a black skirt.

    Also, I have to add J. Crew’s Super 120s suit to your list. The fabric wears very well, and though once they use the same fabric each year, I can mix and match pretty easily (I steam my suits religiously to cut down on fading from dry cleaning).

    I have a “bubble butt” and can wear J Crew pants a size up with the waist taken in. For my shape (pretty fit with a butt), Banana skirts, pants, and dresses rarely work without extreme alterations.

    I don’t have much experience with Ann Taylor. The only excuse I can give is that I haven’t had great customer service in my local (Atlanta) AT, so I guess I don’t venture in there as often.

    • Edit: nude shoes with navy skirts.

      I like black shoes with navy pants. Kat has often mentioned her love of dark purple (maroon, plum, merlot, etc) shoes with navy skirts and pants.

      ***Question- when you wear purple shoes with navy pants, what color belt do you wear?

      • We are not men. We do not have to match our belt to our shoes.

        Wear mustard yellow belt, turquoise, green, brown, maroon. Whatever you want. You could use the belt as an extra color to accessorize, or wear black if you want it to blend in.

    • Yes, the tights issue is what prevents me from buying a navy suit. What color tights do you wear with it in the winter? I’ve tried med. grey and it just does not look as formal as all black.

      • I found the *perfect* tights at TJ Max one year. Made by Chinese Laundry they were a blue-grey color, slightly sheer, with a very subtle diamond pattern in them. Sadly they eventually got runs and I haven’t been able to match the exact color, but have had some luck with similar-colored grey from chinese Laundry also purchased at TJ’s. I also got a pair of actual navy ones that perfectly match one of my navy skirts.

      • I wear sheer off-black pantyhose or nude pantyhose. The only way I can get it to work with tights is if the tights either perfectly match the navy of the skirt or the color of my shoes, which is hard to find.

    • How about dark brown tights? Nude shoes might look weird with dark brown though, but black or any shade of brown should work.

    • I like to do black opaque tights and black shoes (patent or suede) with my navy skirt suits. I also have a lot of black/navy patterned tops that I wear under suits, so I feel like those bring it all together.

    • Oh i hope im not too late on this one. I FINALLY figured out the tights with navy this this past winter. Nordstrom brand does an opaque tight in a heathered color that is charcoal leaning navy. I founf they looked just right, and i could wear them with a pair of ink blue suede pumps that i wasnt getting much of a chance to wear.

      In somewhat warmer but not bare leg weather , i like nude fishnets, but that’s a can of worms on this board.

    • This. This. This. (re JCrew Super 120’s). I just bought my first JCrew suit-navy pant suit with a subtle pinstripe. Love it! It was on sale (with promo code)-approx $200 for jacket and pants together! Highly recommend. Fits like a dream.

  11. I have a pretty good navy suit from Banana, however as previously noted here, Banana blazers are more narrow in the shoulders. I don’t plan to buy from them again because the fit in the shoulders isn’t what I’m looking for. Ann Taylor allows for more room. In my experience, JCrew also has less room in the shoulders. Unfortunately I’ve also noted that tall suiting does not account for wider shoulders, just longer arms and torso.

    • I have the same problem. I wish Kat would do a post on wide-shouldered blazers that are still fitted in the torso…

  12. Glad I’m not the only one that has trouble with navy suits. I love the theory, blue is my favorite color. But pairing it is too difficult. I’ve started giving young women the advice that dark grey is the more flexible color. For interviews and court. My first day trial suit is always black. Honestly it has been so long since I’ve owned a navy suit I’m not sure I’d feel as professional in in any more.

    • Agreed that charcoal/dark gray is the most versatile suit color.

    • Me too — I’ve never had a navy suit, always black, charcoal, or mid-grey. My go-to interview suit the last go-round a couple years ago was mid-grey with a black silk shell and black pumps. For some reason, I never feel as formal without black shoes.

      It’s odd to think about, because navy or dark blue is a go-to staple in my business casual wardrobe. As in, at least two days a week, you can catch me in blue/navy. Maybe I should take the plunge and try a navy suit next time. :)

      • Also — opinions on these shoes? Would they go with navy pants (with slight pinstripe or herringbone)? I’ve been eyeing these for a while, but can’t decide if they actually look good or not.

        • I think those would look great with a navy suit. Browns, cordovans, and maroons always look good with navy.

          • Thanks for the input, Hel-lo. Now I’ve got another justification to indulge my shoe habit. :)

  13. kerrycontrary :

    I have a black Banana republic suit and I love it. Now I want to buy more navy though!

  14. I have a navy suit with bracelet sleeves and a pencil skirt. Haven’t yet had the opportunity to wear it (PhDs are sadly short of suit wearing occasions) but I bought 2 of the skirt when it went on sale as it fit so perfectly and I wanted to wear the skirt without the jacket without worrying about fading.

  15. TJ: Anyone have any good knee-high, low-heeled/flat boots for slim calves? This chicken-legged lady is having trouble!


  16. To MBA or Not to MBA? :

    Do you think it’s worth it for someone one year out of ungergrad to go back at least part time for an MBA? I’m in finance and have been working for a year now. I like my job but it seems that in order to advance up the ladder, an advance degree is necessary. It’s really silly, but the thing holding me back is that I’m currently 23 with plans of marriage in a couple of years. I don’t to pursue an MBA (and incur a significant amount of debt) if I’m going to be a SAHM for a few years. But on the otherhand, I’m worried once the kids are older, I will no longer be competitive in the workforce. I know this is getting way ahead of myself but as a Type A, I need to have a plan, ya’know? Tell me I’m not crazy for having this thought process. If you were me, would you go back to school now or in the next year?

    • If the only things holding you back are you MIGHT get married (or are getting married, you didn’t say whether a date had been set) and you MIGHT have kids and MIGHT be a SAHM, you should go ahead and go to school.

      I’m sorry if I sound negative about marriage and kids. But at my age I have seen marriages/engagements fall apart, years-long (in some cases almost decades-long) struggles with infertility, and women who planned to stay home needing to go to work because their husbands lost their jobs/left them/died. I think we all have the obligation to do the best we can do to set ourselves up to take care of ourselves (and our children if we have them) without necessarily needing to depend on anyone else.

      Whether an MBA is a good idea for other reasons (career advancement outweighing debt) are other questions that I think probably have more concrete answers.

      • I wish people would stop self projecting their insecurities onto other people.

      • I think PollyD was saying that you should live the life you have right now, and don’t let future possibilities act as excuses for not doing something that you think could be fun or good for you. Which seems like a perfectly good perspective for PollyD to add.

        • Yes, what Homestar said. And divorce and infertility are facts of life (witness this morning’s divorce thread), not “insecurities.”

          I will admit that I am greatly biased toward women being able to take care of themselves. I grew up in the 1970s, around the time when divorce rates seemed to really start increasing. So you had a cohort of women who had been brought up to believe that maybe they’d work a bit before they got married, but then it was marriage, children, and a husband to bring home a paycheck. These women were often hugely unprepared to support their families when their husbands divorced them. One relative basically lost custody of her 6 children because she had no way to support them, and her husband threatened to quit work and never send her a cent if she took the kids (I have no idea if that would have actually held up in court, but times were different then). For other women, it was really a struggle to find a job/career that would let them support themselves and their kids, even if the ex-husbands were contributing.

    • Anne Shirley :

      Seriously? Don’t go. If you can’t think through for yourself that no wedding date set + not currently pregnant does not equal any sort of reliable life timeline, then you aren’t ready for grad school. Ditto thinking having a years stale part time MBA is going to fix your worries about taking time out from work to raise children.

      I know this is harsh as I’m writing it, but there is a way to figure out whether b-school is right for you. It involves figuring out where you want to go, and doing your research to know how to get there. It does not involve a detailed multi year plan based off the idea that at some point you might want to take a step back from your career.

      • Agree completely. It’s not harsh – it’s honest.

      • I disagree. Harvard began accepting female MBA candidates earlier because many women are in OP’s position. Harvard wanted them to launch careers and establish a track record before they stepped off their career paths for awhile to raise families, which is very common among women MBAs. So I don’t think OP is silly for considering what she might want out of life and how that might fit into her plans right now. I can’t find the original article that I read, but I’ll link to a brief mention of Harvard lowering the age of its MBA class and admitting more women. If OP knows she wants kids, knows that she will eventually want to go back to work after being a SAHM, and MBA might help her fast track her career and help her get there. And, as PollyD pointed out, maybe her life won’t turn out exactly like she expected, but maybe should would still be glad she got the MBA. All fair points to consider.


          Like I said above, there is a much better article on Harvard’s plan to admit more young women at a younger age with less work experience, but I couldn’t find it. (Might not be available online.) I think the idea was to help women establish a career track record before stepping back for family obligations, with the hope that the women will be reenter the workforce and use their MBAs.

          The program was in response to the many MBA women dropping out of the workforce after having a family.

          • anon for this :

            I’m in this program (!) and I agree – a lot of the shift of programs like this and early access to MBAs was in response to women saying – well I don’t WANT to work 4-7 years, then get an MBA, then get established in my career, then have babies. So I’m going to go to law school, or med school, or forgo a graduate degree altogether because it doesn’t fit with my life plan right now.

            In all honesty, I think it’s an excellent program. Harvard has seen a significant uptick in applications from women and in women MBA candidates. My mom is a Harvard MBA from the 80s and says the improvements the school has made since her time there and mine are extraordinary.

            All this being said, the costs to get a full time MBA are astronomical. And as posters below have noted, outside of maybe the top 20 programs (maybe even 10), the value of a particular school is negligible. Your GMAT score qualifies you to apply to some top 10 and top 3 (H/S/W) programs, but I would also consider either applying to lower ranked programs where you could get a scholarship or seeing if your employer will pay. I imagine it will be hard if your fiance also has school debt to get by on one income, and especially to support a family on one income with school loans, considering the average debt level of many MBA grads.

          • Anonymous :

            I think Harvard would probably more effective in helping women on and off ramp their careers if they recruited and admitted women trying to re-enter the workforce. There are many business careers that women who are still in their biologically optimal family building time can progress in without hitting the MBA ceiling. Getting this valuable work experience, then doing the SAHM track, then being able to get that Harvard MBA would make on ramping a lot easier than having a stale degree and stale work experience.

            My cynical side thinks this is a good marketing technique to try to separate younger women from their money before they have the work experience to really leverage an MBA to its fullest.

        • Links awaiting moderation, but here is another one mentioning the younger female MBA admissions trend:

        • Anne Shirley :

          I think I actually agree with you, but from another angle. Yes, I’m familiar with harvards move, and I think the reasoning you laid out makes perfect sense. But the OP didn’t seem to have thought things through at all, and doesn’t sound like she’s dedicated to her career path anyway.

          So, considering family- absolutely. Going to grad school before you can reason through that decision independently and based on a long term view (not I think I might get married/have kids should I go this year or next) seems hasty to me. And grad school is a huge investment to make when you still have a lot of growing up to do.

          • OK, now I agree with this post Anne Shirley–thanks for posting a follow up.

    • Are you in a committed relationship headed toward marriage + kids anytime soon? How can you be sure you will be married within a couple of years and then pregnant shortly thereafter? Your timeline, while feasible, sounds like you’re totally jumping the gun and are making ‘plans’ based on a pie-in-the-sky inclination.

      It’s already a new ‘school year’ for MBA grads come end of Aug/Sept., so you would likely be applying for NEXT fall, which is another year away. Part-time MBAs can take up to 4yrs to complete, esp if you work full-time. You should start studying for the GMAT to begin with, assuming you haven’t already. And then polishing up your resume, applications, essays, references, etc. Grad school applications take time and preparation if you want to get into a decent program. Another factor is that MBA programs usually want you to be in the workforce at least 2-3 yrs., though there’s no harm in trying since you will be 2 yrs out by the time you’re admitted if you apply for next year.

      IMO, there are a lot of factors to consider, but potential stay at home motherhood several years down the line is at the bottom of the list for the task at hand.

    • Why not? You’re young. Really young, actually. If you’re even considering it, do it now. It’s not impossible to be a mom to young kids and work on a grad program, but I imagine it would be significantly more difficult than doing it as a single and/or young married person.
      If you’re worried about the money issue, is there any chance that your employer would help out with tuition?

      I think *this* type of situation is what Sheryl Sandberg was talking about in the infamous “don’t leave before you leave” speech. Maybe you’ll be a SAHM five or ten years from now, but a lot can happen between now and then. Do what’s right for your life, now.

      • I think it’s great that you know what you want your personal life to look like five or ten years from now. But – and I say with kindness – planning your life around marriage and kids when you’re not yet engaged is putting the cart before the horse.

        • Anon for this :

          Yes! I’m around your age and had a similar-ish relationship situation. My boyfriend and I had been together for over two years with very serious plans for marriage and kids. He broke up with me in January, only days after saying he hoped we could be married by that time next year. I didn’t see it coming at all. I’m hopeful that we can fix things in the future, but without warning my timeline for marriage went from a year and a half at the most to who knows how long now. I still love him and he’s worth the wait for me, but my future is nowhere near as certain as it once was. I’m not saying this will happen to you (I wouldn’t wish my current situation on my worst enemy!) but you can never, ever take your situation for granted. I don’t have any specific advice re grad school, since my own ideas about it are in the vague possibility stage, but I think it’s an expensive and risky decision to make, especially if you aren’t 100% sure.

    • Thank you to those who have responded. A few few clarifications:
      We do have a date set, which is why I’m trying to plan accordingly.
      I took the GMAT and scored a 740.
      While I do understand how it may seem that I’m just basing this decision off of nothing realistic, I have done research and have given this a lot of thought. In addition to marriage and kids, I just don’t want to waste time doing something I don’t particularly care for. Well, then why bother with MBA, right? There’s great earning potential and it’d be a waste of previous efforts if I don’t continue. But realistically thinking, I cannot see myself doing this for the rest of my life. So maybe my real question is whether I should stick it out for a decade and then get out.

      • LadyEnginerd :

        Knowing this new information, in your position I’d save a full-time MBA as my ace in the hole to re-enter after a few years of being a SAHM or working part-time to focus on the kids. To that end, I’d start aggressively saving $$ for the MBA now and treat it like any other major financial priority (MBAs are more expensive than a lot of houses!). Think hard about where you want to be in 10 years when your kids are in school and then try to advance towards that goal without going back to school until you’re ready to ramp your career back into high gear again.

        For the record, I’ve spoken with MBA student moms of toddlers and they make it work. My SO made the choice to try to get the MBA done part-time before we have kids, but neither of us plans to stop working full time. We both prioritize work-life balance in our choice of full-time jobs, however.

        • LadyEnginerd :

          Also, read What Color is your Parachute to think about your career and jobs in the big wide world outside of finance if it doesn’t make you happy. The high-powered finance vs. SAHM seems to me like very black and white thinking. You might surprise yourself if you let yourself think of all the possible jobs you might enjoy having over the rest of your working life (which will 40-50 years, of which your kids will be young for 1/4 of them).

    • Former Partner, Now In-House :

      Wait, really?! You might not pursue your education and career because you might get married and you might have children? What year is this – 1952?

      On behalf of my mother (born 1938, undergrad 1961, Ph.D. 1965, J.D. 1985 — raised 2 kids) and my stepmother (born 1942, undergrad 1964 — raised 2 kids and 2 stepkids) and me (born 1966, undergrad 1987, J.D. 1987 — raising 2 stepkids), I want to tell you how disappointed I am.

      • This is uncalled for. As many wise women on this site have said before me, feminism does not mean that you have to have a power career and children or you’ve failed as a female. It means that as a female we have the right to choose to work and raise a family; just work and have no children; stay at home and raise children; or any combination of the above.
        Every person has different priorities and it does nothing to advance women to cut down people who choose a different lifestyle than you do.

      • Heh. I kind of agree with Former Partner. I was born in 1967, maybe it’s generational.

        See also my response above, about many women in the 1970s who thought they’d never really have to work after having kids scrambling to find a job after their husbands divorced them. I agree that women absolutely have the right to work/stay home with kids/work with kids/stay home without kids, whatever they want. I do find SAHM sort of exotic, perhaps because I live in a high-cost, high-achieving (some might say obnoxiously so) area – Washington DC. I don’t mean exotic in a bad way, either, it’s just not something I run into very often.

        I guess I also feel that education is something that you’ll always have – it can’t be taken away from you. Now, I am not saying that the OP should unreservedly go to MBA school – other posters have made very good points about cost, interest, plans, etc. But I don’t think plans to marry and/or have children should necessarily negate education plans.

    • Everyone I know who has found their MBA valuable has either 1) had their employer pay for it 2) went to a mind-bogglingly awesome school who placed them with a powerhouse or 3) did it later in life after they had other business experience.
      I don’t know many people who do it when they’re young – my understanding is that it is less useful then, and more useful once you have business experience to relate coursework to. I would wait until you know what doors are closed because you don’t have it – and then see if your employer would pay for it at that point.

    • Kontraktor :

      First, good job on your GMAT score. Second, good job on thinking the choice through. We we all struggle with figuring out if school/career moves are right for us, based on our current circumstances and the current/future lives we want to lead. I think you are correct to wonder whether or not an MBA is worth it if you don’t particularly see yourself using it, working in the long term, or having it be compatable with your long term goals. It’s a huge time and money investment to make, so if you’re not sure, I don’t think you should be doing it just for the sake of it. I think this is especially true if you have strong desires to not work in the future/have a more quiet career- is taking on a huge amount of debt now going to allow you to make those other life style choices you want later? Of course there is the counterpoint that you ‘should not leave until you leave,’ but I feel too few people consider the financial and life consequences that school decisions especially will have. Going to school does not always equal the right thing.

      My two cents: see if you can get your MBA financed through your current employer, or alternatively perhaps apply to some lower ranked schools where the tuition is cheaper/you could get some funding/etc. Sometimes it really seems like so many employers these days create all MBAs equal, save for those at the top 5 schools (ie, a Univ. of Phoenix online MBA might be considered equal to mid-state Univ. MBA at some companies). So, if all your employer is looking for is a check in the MBA box, perhaps you could see what cheaper options might be available. Sure, there wouldn’t be the great prestige factor of going somewhere in the top 5, but if you just want the degree ‘to be safe’, don’t want to pay a lot, and are not sure if you will use it in the future, look at the cheaper options out there (that might include employer options, distance courses, etc.).

      • It’s important to look at the cost of the MBA.

        Will you be going $50,000 in debt? (I have no idea what the cost of an MBA actually is.)
        If so, will you be able to pay off those loans while taking a few years out of the workforce as a SAHM?

        • anon for this :

          Average debt at HBS is ~$90K if I remember correctly. Other schools have higher average debt levels and OP should expect costs to rise somewhat between now and when she actually attends.

        • LadyEnginerd :

          50k in debt is optimistic even if SO will pay for all her living expenses while she’s in school. Expected debt load if you’re single and taking out loans for your living expenses in addition to tuition can be >150K. That’s why so many people are wary of taking on those loans if they’re going to take time out of the work force or take a financial risk (i.e. a start-up).

          An MBA is a huge investment and you really need to know what you’re buying with all that money. I actively encouraged my SO not to go until he had a clear vision of what he wanted to be when he grew up. Now that he does, he knows which schools line up best with his goals, and what steps he needed to take in his career to get there in addition to an MBA.

          That’s why I recommended that she wait and save up the money. Between the price sticker and the OP’s uncertainty about what she wants for herself professionally, I think she’s better off using an MBA to strategically relaunch her career into a new field that’s a better fit for her long-term goals (i.e. one she feels is going to be sustainable when she has kids) than a credential to put on her resume and get stale with all her other work experience when she takes time off.

    • Maybe consider taking some of the top women in your organization out to lunch and ask them how they have balanced work and family, whether they think an MBA is “worth it”, and what sorts of careers they have considered in their lives. From this discussion you now know not to frame it :) although I think some of the commenters here could consider how the cost of grad school these days means that getting an MBA at full price closes as many doors as it opens.

      I think you also want to have an honest and full discussion with your future partner about these issues. For example, if you decide to have children earlier in your career (say when you’re in business school) are you prepared to make that work financially? In my experience men have difficulty internalizing the realities of a biological clock and how it might affect their lives.

    • So, congrats on being a planner and getting a great GMAT score. I applaud the fact that you are thinking about things. I have a couple of random thoughts….

      1) B-school, unless you are planning to go right back into i-banking or consulting, largely is to develop management skills. So if you don’t like managing or the idea of managing…think hard about b-school. Also, if you are really young, and you want to manage in the near future, remember that you will be competing with older job candidates (both in-school and in the real-world) who can point to actual management experience. It’s one thing to *want* to manage, and it’s another to know and be able to point to specific instances (and not in school) in which you have managed. Employers often can tell the difference. And it can be really hard to get a job to manage much older folks if you *look* young, even if you *act* mature.

      Although Harvard (and Stanford) have reduced the age of entry for their programs, this hasn’t been completely successful for people who want general management or non-large-firm (banking or consulting) or non-entrepreneurial careers. It can work–it’s not for everyone. So don’t just point to statistics–probe deeper when you are thinking about applying.

      2) You will get SO much more out of b-school if you know precisely why you are going and what you want to be when you come out. It is a tasty buffet of a million choices while you are there (many of which are fascinating), but my classmates that had the best internships and the best jobs (and are now the happiest!) started down a laser-focused networking and coursework path from Day 1. They knew what they wanted out of b-school and used it exactly for its purpose. B-school is awesome and distracting and much harder if you are wide-eyed and trying to figure it out (I know–I was the latter!). All I knew when I got there was “not banking again”!

      3) Many management gurus (Jack and Suzy Welch in particular) believe that an MBA gives you a temporary “bump” or entree into select institutions that really only happens once, or right after you graduate. However, that fresh MBA glow can wear off in a few years (by which time it is assumed you’d have learned to network on your own). That is to say, there is some truth to the “go later” argument that folks are espousing on this board. Going now, working for a few years and stopping out makes that temporary bump fade. The counterargument to this is that if you stop out, many of your classmates may not, and would be in a good position to hire you when you’re looking to jump back into the working world post-kids. I’ve seen this happen too.

      4) This is purely anecdotal, and personal. When I wanted to go to school, I had three years of work experience. I can’t tell you how many of my interviewers told me I was “so young” and “had my whole life ahead of me.” I, for the life of me (being so mature and whatnot) couldn’t really understand such comments. In my mind, I’d lived abroad, gone through h_ll in banking, etc., and felt like I had a lot of living under my belt. Turned out that those comments were spot on, and I gained a lot more perspective over the next few years, purely from living life…honest. Part of that was hanging out with the significantly older peer group in b-school, but it also had to do with love, death, travel, etc….I just hadn’t gotten out enough because my three years of work experience were very intense and all-encompassing. So again, this is personal, but when people tell you that you are young, it’s because you are, no matter how mature you might feel. Remember that those same people might be hiring you or deciding whether to pick you for their team. In some industries, young = fresh, creative. In others, young = inexperienced. So plan your job search accordingly.

      5) A number of older, wiser commenters on this board, such as mamabear, Lisa, cbackson, etc. have mentioned that their life goals and work goals were drastically different from their early twenties to their late twenties or even their thirties. That is to say, if you want an MBA and think you want one, no matter what….do it. But if there is any chance that you want to see where life takes you…see where life takes you. Your GMAT score will be good for 5 years! I was a mere pup a year out of school, and hadn’t had the exposure to industries or specific job functions that ended up fascinating me later. So…you may want to be patience with yourself and see where life and work take you, if only for a year or two.

      Hope some of this helps.

  17. Black is always my go to color for interviews — it just feels more formal to me — but I have an AT wool navy suit and like it. When I wear it as a pants suit, I wear navy, patent, croc heels in navy or dark purple (I am all for patent, during any season). If I’m wearing it as a skirt suit, I wear nude heels.

  18. emcsquared :

    I liked the J. Crew wool gabardine suit (except that the pants never quite worked for my small-waisted, big-hipped, big-butted frame) and I have an Ann Taylor navy suit from last fall that has more of a sailor-y vibe to the jacket, and a more textured weave to the fabric.

    I just ordered a navy suit from Thomas Joseph – we’ll see how it turns out. The hubs wasn’t too impressed with the quality of their fabrics, and they do seem really expensive for how thin the fabrics feel.

    I wore a navy suit to my last interview, with a white blouse and red necklace. One of my favorite combinations.

    • That’s such a classic look – I also really love navy and lime green. It can go so well with peridot jewelry.

  19. 16 Handles :

    Update to all the thoughtful commenters who responded to my midsize v. biglaw inquiry — I decided to take the midsize firm offer, after weighing up the pros and cons and thinking about where I want to be in a few years. I feel so light and happy right now that I’m positive I made the right choice!

    • Congratulations! I did not weigh in, b/c I came in at the tail end of the conversation, but it sounds like a very wise choice to me.

  20. Isn’t Interview Week almost over at a lot of schools now?

  21. scarf lady :

    I follow the same rules as the men when it comes to suit dressing, and that means no black suits. Black suits are for funerals. And maybe a black-tie optional affair (for the men at least). Not for work.

    • lawsuited :

      Wait, I’m not supposed to wear black suits for work? I should definitely alert my boss and colleagues!

      • I just thought the same thing. :)

      • I think this is regional and perhaps generational. In my law school days (1980’s) no one wore black suits to interviews. That’s also more true in the South, even now, than elsewhere. Navy was always my go-to suit, more formal than black. Now it is more difficult to find a true navy suit, and there is the shoe issue (I’ll have to try gray), but I do love a nice navy suit and even wear a light blue silk shell with hit. the only time light blue looks good on me.

        • I do not think that any of my law partners (all male, small town, deep south) ever have worn a black suit, except perhaps to funerals. There was an assistant crminal U.S. atty who always wore black suits and a bowtie, and everyone goodnaturedly referred to him as the funeral director. Dark charcoal gray or navy is their usual court attire.

    • Men and women don’t have the same rules.

      For instance: We wear skirts. Sometimes.

    • i follow the same rules as men when it comes to suit dressing, too. so, I wear ties, belts to match my shoes, button-down shirts… oh wait.

    • scarf lady :

      Harsh, guys. Yes, I know that many men do wear black suits to work, but it’s a major faux pas.

  22. In my experience, navy suits are easy to find. It’s finding true navy shoes that’s impossible! I don’t like black shoes with navy suits for women. Men have the excuse of not having many options on color!

  23. new york associate :

    In response to Kat’s question: “Have you ever had a bad experience (either as an interviewer or interviewee) with someone in a black or gray suit?”

    I have had LOTS of bad experiences with people in black or gray suits – but I’m pretty sure the color of the suit had nothing to do with it.

  24. I cleaned out my suit closet this weekend, ditching about 1/3rd of my suits. I realized that I don’t have a navy suit but have 4 black ones. I did buy a pair of beautiful navy shoes this weekend at Ann Taylor though marked down to 29 from 198.

  25. “Have you ever had a bad experience (either as an interviewer or interviewee) with someone in a black or gray suit?”

    We had a (male) candidate for an entry-level position who wore a dark charcoal suit, neutral shirt and tie, black dress shoes and white athletic socks. That was the only time I’ve truly wondered what a candidate was thinking when they were choosing what to wear!

  26. Corporate Fledgling :

    I wore a black Calvin Klein pant suit to interview for my first job out of school- granted, my background is engineering and I work for my company’s U.S. headquarters in the Midwest (i.e. less formal than East Coast biglaw but still conservative and surrounded by men).

    That said, I bought a navy blue pinstripe blazer on sale a year ago- but no matching bottom (I have separate navy pinstripe pants and skirt that do not match). I’m kicking myself now because I’m clueless as to how to wear it, even though it’s a beauty. No one in my office wears suits, and I’ve considered pairing it with jeans on a Friday. If anyone has suggestions as to what to do, I would love some help!

  27. I don’t recommend a navy suit as a starter piece if you don’t have a well built up professional wardrobe.

    When I was in law school, I bought a navy suit for interviewing and other professional purposes, and I found it really, really hard to work with for many of the reasons people have stated. I just didn’t have enough other items in my wardrobe, like shells and shoes, to make it work in a variety of outfits. I wound up always wearing the same cream shell and black shoes every time I needed it because I didn’t have enough other pieces in my wardrobe. For example, I had other pastel shells, but then the black shoes looked too harsh, and I had no nude shoes at the time, and my brown shoes were just the wrong shade of brown to pull off, and I didn’t have the right handbag that would work with that type of palette. I was also much more cautious about colors, and had a fear of wearing jewel tones with suits because I didn’t feel they were appropriate.

    I swore off navy for years as a result. Now, I’m five years out, and I just bought a new navy suit this spring (Ann Taylor), and find it really easy to work with. Of course now I have a bunch of shells in jewel tones, I have shoes in nude, snakeskin, and deep purplish-burgundy that I can use along with black and various shades of brown, based on the top worn and level of conservativism I need in the outfit.

    If your professional wardrobe is limited, you will be frustrated that you bought a navy suit. While I agree that charcoal gray is the most versatile, black is the easiest to work with when you don’t have a lot of other clothes. Black shoes and a black handbag are always going to work, regardless of what shirt you where.

  28. FYI, I just bought the Tahari suit, and it arrived today (it was super fast shipping, like I swear it shipped before I pressed checkout.) The arms are waaaaay too short.

  29. I stumbled upon this site looking for advise on buying a suit for a girlfriend of mine who is a lawyer. I would like to buy her a suit as a gift, something she would never buy for herself because of the expense. I am looking for something practical that will always be in fashion in the court room (Not to hard I am guessing) and is worth the expense, another words nicely tailored and looks great. I have a carpentry business and wear jeans and a t shirt to work but I know what the difference a nicely tailored suit makes. I have one Brookes Brothers suit for weddings and funerals, Lol. I have been looking at the Brookes Brothers one and two button suit jackets in navy and a pencil skirt. I think I am on the right track, I am also thinking of shoes to match. Any help will be greatly appreciated! By the way she is 5’3″ and maybe 110lbs? Of course I am only guessing on the weight! The only stores near us are Talbots, Nordstroms and Brookes Brothers.

  30. Being a female lawyer I have to abide by a few “rules” when it comes to office attire, and considering the fact that people don’t take you seriously unless you dress the part, I stick to these rules! However, I have introduced a few angles that allow my outfits to be less intimidating – introducing pops of colour, bold jewellery, red lips, and bright shirts in the otherwise stern suit, creating a little funk in corporate gear!

    Nice to see a blog for people with a penchant as opposed to obsession with fashion!

  31. I actually went to a fashion consultant when I was interviewing for my new job last year. Honestly, I hated my business attire. I looked ugly (I used the term frumpy) in most of what I wore. The funny thing is, it was mostly Navy suits I had!! It’s a tough chore to make Navy suits look good on me. So I went to the fashion consultant who designs for Hillary Clinton per a friend’s recommendation, and she really helped me put together sharp, stylish outfits. There was a pants suit that was navy…the only navy suit I ever really liked on myself.

    I would recommend her to anyone else that is going for an executive position. She is great!! She does a drawing for a free fashion consult every month too. If you care to check her out –

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