Whether you like it or not, first impressions matter, especially in job interviews. And while your personality, professionalism and experience should be the most important, your attire can go a long way in setting you apart from other applicants. Now, that’s not to say that your outfit should be the focal point, but it can help convey that you’re professional even before you speak.
So, with May graduates in mind, we chatted with seven professionals in PR, editorial and retail about what to wear specifically to interview for a fashion job during the summer, which might just be the trickiest season sartorially. Read on for their advice below, and in case you missed it, head here for more advice on what to wear for job interview in fashion. (And if you’re in the early stages of your job hunt, take a look at our careers page for any openings.)
Good luck! You’ve got this!
Kyle Anderson, market and accessories director at Marie Claire:
Kyle Anderson recommends staying on the more conservative side even when temperatures go up. If you’re wearing something sleeveless, “look at the amount of fabric on the shoulder area and stick to a rule” (i.e. make sure you’re not wearing a spaghetti strap top or dress). For bottoms, culottes might be an appropriate and stylish option. “It looks more like a skirt, but it is pants so it’s a little bit more covering,” Anderson says. And as for shoes, he recommends close-toed pumps or pointy-toed flats.
Anderson also suggests staying away from a trendy print or a favorite color, and picking a solid neutral instead. “I think that the one time that you might have to put at least some of your personal style aside is the interview,” he says. As Anderson explains, you don’t want someone to “be turned off by something that they see as a trend that they don’t like.”
Sade Strehlke, digital features editor at Teen Vogue:
“The key is comfort,” says Sade Strehlke. “You should wear something that you’re comfortable in because leaving one job to interview at another will most likely make you sweat.” She suggests a sleeveless or short-sleeved dress, and a blazer folded neatly over the bag or arm to reduce crease. Alternatively, she recommends sleeveless silk blouses, which you can get at stores like Zara and H&M. And for shoes, Strehlke suggests an easy pump or even a little chunky-heel sandal. “Zara always has great chunky heel sandals in metallic colors, which are always on trend,” she says. Lastly, carry some powder or blotting paper to minimize shine.
Amanda Weiner Alagem, senior accessories editor at Harper’s Bazaar:
Amanda Weiner Alagem suggests “opting for the updated version” of something classic, especially for a job interview in the fashion department. “If you’re going for suiting, a soft-tailored suit is a great option for summer in a lightweight silk or an unexpected neutral shade like a pastel,” she explains. Dresses are also a great option, but be sure to go by “private school rules” — meaning, your hemline should hit at least below your fingertips. She also points out that midi-dresses feel particularly refined and sophisticated these days. And if you’d like to express your personal style, she suggests doing so through accessories, such as a family heirloom, a special ring or even a unique brooch, especially if your whole look leans towards classic and tailored. Sandals can be an appropriate option during the summer, but opt for a heavier block heel that you can comfortably walk in. “You don’t want to [appear] fussy,” she says. “When you are comfortable in your clothes, you appear more confident and I think that’s key in an interview.”
Cindy Krupp, founder of Krupp Group:
“I think there’s an appropriateness to conservative, but I don’t want someone coming into my office in a black suit [or] skirt suit,” says Cindy Krupp. “When someone comes into my office and they look like they could be interviewing for a law firm, I’m so turned off.” For the summer, Krupp suggests a cute dress, or a great skirt with a stylish top and necklace. For boys, she recommends a polo or a button down, possibly paired with khaki shorts. (“I wouldn’t be offended by an appropriate pair of khaki shorts if the gentleman was wearing a button down and a cute tie.”) Skintight, super short or floppy is never acceptable, and in terms of makeup, she suggests “fresh, light, clean.” Also, don’t wear a ton of perfume or cologne. “It makes me cringe,” she says. “It’s amazing to me that people come in and I’m like, I can’t even breathe in this interview.” Krupp also agrees that accessories are a great way to demonstrate personal style. “With fast fashion being so strong today, you can pull off a great look at a minimal cost, but you have to have an eye and a flare to do it.”
Dana Schwartz, senior fashion director at Wetherly:
“A great rule of thumb when dressing for a summer interview is to keep your shapes and silhouettes classic and simple,” says Dana Schwartz over email. “My go-to outfit is a midi skirt with a silk or cotton blouse, paired with a great closed-toe slide.” According to Schwartz, bold colors and summer patterns look most appropriate on a classic silhouette, such as a pencil skirt. Shift dresses, which are “classic and conservative, but also modern,” are great alternatives.
If you’re still not sure what to wear, err on the side of caution and keep things simple. That said, “don’t be shy to express who you are through your look,” but keep in mind the “rule of three.” For instance, if your skirt is going to be your statement-making piece, keep the other two pieces (your shoes and top) simple. Lastly, makeup should always be “fresh and clean.” Never wear too much eye makeup and try to refrain from bronzer (“it rarely looks chic”).
Roopal Patel, senior vice president, fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue:
According to Roopal Patel, it’s really “all about the detail” and the presentation. “When a candidate’s outfit is pressed and their shoes are polished, it says a lot about their approach to their professional work,” says Patel over email. “An outfit that is put together well translates into how the applicant will represent Saks.” Demonstrating personal style is encouraged (it’s “a great conversation piece”), but make sure that your attire is appropriate for a professional setting. “If you question whether or not the piece may be better suited for a garden or beach party, I suggest not wearing it to an interview,” she says.
Stephanie Solomon, fashion director at Lord + Taylor:
Stephanie Solomon recommends dressing very professionally, even in the traditional sense. “Err on the side of conservative,” she says. “You really don’t want your interview clothes to outshine [what] you have to say.” That might mean a black skirt, cardigan and a white or pastel-colored shirt. If you want to evoke a sense of your personal style, do so through a piece of jewelry or a handbag, “but don’t make it so overt that it looks too thought-out.” Remember, “anything that seems a little bit outrageous distracts the attention of the interviewer.” And don’t forget to pay attention to the details. “You’re looking for someone that understands proportions, that understands good taste, that understands a sense of color,” says Solomon of what she looks for in a job applicant.
Written by: Gemma Kim for Fashionista