How High to Button Your Shirt for Interviews

blouse-buttons-suitsWhen interviewing, must you button your shirt all the way to the top? How many buttons are acceptable to leave unbuttoned? Reader S wonders…

I am going for an interview at quite a conservative organisation. I have a navy skirt suit and was going to wear a white button up shirt. Do I need to button up all the buttons up to the top?

I have an immediate, initial gut reaction here — but I’m curious if the readers agree. Before we start, note that the WSJ just discussed this very topic for men’s attire; in the past we’ve talked about whether shirt collars should be tucked into a blazer or splayed on top, as well as where to get the best button-front blouses. Here’s my gut reaction $.02:

NO! Don’t button it all the way to the top! That would look weird, and fussy, and… and… I’m thinking of a hitman in a movie but can’t quite put my finger on which movie. (Also: Rainman.) I dug up a few pictures for inspiration, though, and my opinions shifted as I studied it. So I’m really curious to hear what readers say.  Here are some notes:

Buttoned all the way to the top:

Personally, this is my least favorite look. It looks very severe to me; I’m surprised to see so many models styled this way. I’d say this is the dominant way I saw things styled online, which was a surprise.

Pictured: Source / Source / Source / Source (totally not an interview suit, but look how purty!).


Slightly Unbuttoned:

When I started writing this post, I also would have said this was WAY too high. It still isn’t my favorite look, and personally I would want more of a V-neck effect. (Note that my personal preference here has ALWAYS been affected by the fact that I am busty and a V-neck is much more flattering on me than a closed-neck top — so add that grain of salt to the, uh, other grains of salt.) That said, it is a classic, very buttoned-up look.

Source / Source  (note that if you zoom in on the product page, there are two unbuttoned buttons — but it lays so neatly it could be only one)/ Source / Source


Unbuttoned and Open:

Think “top 2 buttons undone,” so there’s a bit of clavicle showing.  Honestly, this is how I’ve always worn a button-front blouse, and how most people I know have styled it in real life, whether accidentally or on purpose.  (I have even adjusted the opening so it purposely lays a bit open, with the collar still tucked inside the jacket.)   But you can barely find any pictures with it styled as such online.

Source / Source / Source


Blouse Open:

Hi yo! Please do not wear this look to an interview or to work (at least not without a serious layer beneath it… like a turtleneck.) J.Crew is the big offender, here, and to me it’s one of their little styling quirks. Admittedly, a lot of their styling quirks have become trendy (the half-tuck, the J.Crew roll, the disheveled ponytail), but I’d stay away from the blouse half-undone look.

Source / Source /Source.



Ladies, how do YOU wear your blouses with suit jackets: buttoned all the way to the top, slightly unbuttoned, unbuttoned and open, or very open?  


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How High to Button Your Shirt for Interviews


  1. I agree that 2 buttons is the way to go. 1 button is ok when it creates a bit of a v (see the first model) but otherwise it also looks severe. Reminds me of my school uniform days!

    This only applies to classic button-ups. Blouses with other necklines (peter pan collar, v-neck, etc.) should usually be buttoned all the way up, either for appropriate coverage or to show off the detail.

    • Diana Barry :

      Agreed 100%. That said, I don’t wear button-downs any more because of (1) gaps between buttons, (2) collar fussiness, (3) tucking/belting issues, and (4) how many buttons to button. Silk blouses that are made to be untucked FTW!

    • I have my dry cleaner add a snap in between the first and second button, so I get the effect of two buttons, but without having to worry if it dips too low. Depending on the shirt, I also do this with the second and third button instead.

      • I kind of like L’s Idea, b/c one button may be to tight, especialy if you are a littel tight upstair’s or if your shirt is not proper fitting. But two button’s open leave’s your boobie’s available for inspection, which is the LAST thing you want when you are interveiewing. So the 1.5 button approach is something that new interviewee’s should consider. Even afterward, I like the idea b/c when I give my presentations to firm’s or at CLE’s I have found that men LOVE to stare at my boobie’s when I wear a blazer and open blouse, even when I try to cover up. I cant understand what it is with men and boobie’s–mabye they were NOT brest fed, so they look at my boobies and salinate. FOOEY b/c Alan used to slobber all over my boobie’s when I let him and he virtueally was NEVER abel to use his putter effectively on me. So I got a mess all over b/c of him, and I finaly had to replace my 1000 psi Egypitian Cotton sheets and bed spread b/c of his bodily fluid’s. TRIPEL FOOEY!

    • Cosign Zelda. I sometimes do three buttons if the way that the blazer falls makes that look better (such that I am not flashing anyone). I wear button downs probably 3/5 of the time, and all the way up has never occurred to me…ever. I used to be really conservative and do only 1 button right when I graduated from college, but an older colleague actually told me it was too severe, so I relaxed all the way down to two. BAHAHAHA!

      • Also, and I am sure I commented on the thread years ago, but I am team Collar Out for shirts–it looks like you are being effortlessly preppy and less uptight. I also am not petite (thanks ex-swimmer shoulders), so it looks better on me.

        • la vie en bleu :

          I’ve been traumatised by Nancy Pelosi and other politicians and cannot wear my collar out anymore. ;o)

        • Collar out looks super dated to me. I mean I love CJ Cregg, but I don’t love the way she wears her collar out. I also don’t love her 3-4 buttons undone with a cami underneath look. Again, super dated.

    • Yes, two buttons unless you can see cleavage. I am with Kat in that I need a V-neck illusion at the top to keep from looking too wide.

  2. I think that the bottom looks only work sans bra and in the 70s.

  3. What is the j crew roll?

    • Anonymous :

      I think she is referring the way J. Crew models wear their shirt sleeves rolled up (not in these photos). Pretty sure there’s a video out there somewhere on how to achieve it.

      • Senior Attorney :

        Instructions here: with a link to the video

  4. Anonymous Associate :

    One button undone is the way to go if you aren’t sure. Better to be seen as a bit too conservative in an interview than to have your shirt open too far and distracting someone.

    Disclaimer: my opinion is colored by an experience where one of my colleagues was ordered to leave a courtroom because her collarbone was showing. Since she was wearing a shell and could in no way cover the collarbones, I had to do the oral argument for her. Very stressful. Of course, that is fairly ridiculous on the part of the judge, but I always feel better safe than sorry.

  5. midwest mom :

    I am a Business Career Counselor. I actually advise my students to not wear a button up blouse. Huge problem with college students – blouses that gape. Ill fitting button up blouses are everywhere. I don’t want to see a bra and many students can’t afford the button up shirts designed for large busted women. I prefer a shell of some sort so that you don’t have to think about it all. Remember I’m talking about business majors that don’t go into courtrooms.

    I also tell ladies they don’t have to button their suit jackets but it needs to look like it can button. Once again, ladies trying to cram big girls into a too small jacket. Fit is key.

    • Excellent points from Midwest Mom. Clothes that fit are key, especially for a first impression/interview. I opt for a shell (or similar) instead of a buttoned blouse— no chance of gaping or crooked collar.

  6. Personally I always wear mine with at least two buttons open but always with a camisole underneath. In my opinion buttoned all the way up only works on women who have little to nothing on top. I like the look, but can never ever pull it off unless the rest of the shirt is way too big.

  7. Related: always wear a camisole or tank under your button-down shirt. I have taken to always wearing a skin colored bra and then a white tank/under shirt beneath my white shirts. This is because the shirt will gape, and skin should not show when it does. I have a couple darker button-down shirts, and I wear black or skin-tone tanks under those.

  8. I feel like they need to make button ups that have zippers underneath so that they’ll never gape! I also hate it when the buttons don’t go low enough for long torsoed people like brooks brother’s

  9. I always button up all my button.i like how it feel and how it look

  10. Can I ask a question about the first set of suits pictured (with the shirts buttoned up all the way to the top)?

    Your comment says the last one is “definitely not an interview suit”, but do you think something like this would be appropriate for say, a business school interview? Something that is not so strict as banking or law.. Since I am trying to make sure the committee remembers me, I want to show a little personality, but of course not too much to be distracting. I am thinking of pairing a suit very similar to that (with pants, I always feel stronger in pants!) with a black and white V-neck shell that is very classy, and patent leather pumps.


    Thank you!!

  11. I always button up my shirt right to the top. I like to be dressed for business and show I am serious for an interview or the office. My preference is french cuff shirts and proper collar shirts with collar bones which mean they don’t look crumpled or fall out of position.

  12. blinkingblythe01 :

    I always button my blouse collar scince I feel very uncomfortable with it open, and I feel a buttoned collar looks proper and respectful. Honestly, I think all men and women should keep their collars buttoned especialy when wearing long pants/skirts/sleeves but that’s just me.

    What I would do is add a silk floral scarf to the collar, and have it arranged as a ladies version of a neck tie. A brooch (either simple and modern, or lacy and old fashioned depending on the company) just below the knot at the collar would look amazing. A flowy long tastefuly patterned skirt and a solid color blazer and blouse would complete it.

    • I always button to the top unless its a very casual event. Why else are the buttons put there! I especially love the Italian shirts with two or even three buttons at the collar; very smart! If undone (rarely) I will turn the back of the collar up a too.