I recently received this email from a lovely reader 'o mine:
I have an interview coming up for a job at a social service agency, and I have no idea what to wear. The biggest issue is that it may well be quite warm, and that makes dressing up and dressing professionally quite the challenge. It is a particular challenge for me because I hate warm weather (I'm an Oregon girl! Go Ducks!), and much prefer cold and rainy to hot and humid.
I also have certain physical challenges that make summer professional attire even harder. Let me list them:
1. I'm not plus-size, but I am not skinny either. As such, I'm not super comfy baring skin, and I need to dress to compliment my figure (a-line skirts or full skirts with a more fitted top are my ideal silhouette).
2. I don't feel comfortable baring my arms, and 3/4 length sleeves are the shortest I would go for an interview.
3. I have the worst legs in the world. This makes wearing a skirt or dress in summer really tricky. In the winter, I can wear boots (and I do, all winter!). But in the summer, that's painful and looks silly. Nylons are disgusting, and I don't wear heels (except a really chunky heel).
My style is super funky, but I need to be somewhat conservative for this interview. I'm poor, but creative, so don't worry about budget issues - I am just looking for ideas!
2 Hot 2 Interview
Dear 2 Hot,
Oh sweet mother of jesus do I know your pain. Perhaps it is our mutual Oregon upbringing, but I share both your disdain for hot weather and your confusion about how to dress in it. Now, like the sweaty-and-fashion-confused leading the sweaty-and-fashion-confused, allow me to advise:
I went back and forth on this a bit, but in the end I've gotta go with the tailored, semi-wide legged trousers and button-up blouse. At first, I thought a unique skirt would be a great way to show your creativity and still look professional, but then I remembered the "worst legs in the world" issue, and I didn't want to be like Tyra on this episode I saw the other day where this woman came on and was talking about how she's lost so much weight but she's still really insecure about her arms, and she had this big fancy event to go to, and I was sure that Tyra was gonna be like Oprah and buy her plastic surgery and therapy and hire Roberto Cavalli to tailor a one-of-a-kind dress for her and then buy everyone in the audience a Micronesian island just for fun, but then instead, Tyra opened the curtain to unveil a bunch of this lady's old clothes with the sleeves torn off, and she was just like, "Work those arms, girl!"
The woman looked really confused. And I thought the whole thing was really stupid, because you can't just will someone out of an insecurity, even with poorly altered clothing as an incentive. If I went on Tyra to talk about how I keep my stomach hidden all the time because it's roughly as large as Jim Belushi's, and then she opened a curtain to reveal that she'd cut big holes in the middle of all my shirts and said, "Work that stomach, girl!" I'd just be like, "Holy shit. Tyra. Seriously. You fucked up all my clothes."
Anyway, several severely run-on sentences later, what I'm trying to say is that even though Tyra would probably steal all your trousers, turn them into hotpants and tell you to work it, real pants will probably be the most appropriate, comfortable, and realistic to work in, so let's go with that:
Nine West "Cyndi" trouser, $84, nordstrom.com
I like these because:
1. They have a nice, wide, forgiving leg.
2. The sharp crease is slimming.
3. They're viscose, which is not bad in the heat.
4. They're not $400.
Of course, if you'd prefer to spend $400, these are good for that:
Hugo Boss "Thyra" (if you just read that as "Thyroid" and thought, "Jesus, Hugo Boss needs to hire a new pants-namer, stat," well, so did I), $395, nordstrom.com
Next, add a crisp white shirt:
Bonus: Roll up your sleeves, literally, and you'll look like someone who gets things done.
J. Crew, $49.50
Wear at least a bit of a heel:
Gabriella Rocha "Jacinda," $59.95, zappos.com
Creased trousers and plain button up shirts are kind of boring, I know, but they're also professional, flattering, not thaaaaat bad in the heat, and appropriate for work in even the most conservative environment (Tom DeLay's office, for instance). You could obviously do a darker colored shirt here or even one with a subtle print, but definitely err on the conservative side (as Mr. DeLay often does). Or, to quote my corporately jaded mother: "Save your originality until after the damn interview."
As catchy (and depressing) as mom's advice is, I don't quite agree. Mostly because if I'm not expressing myself with my clothes, I curl up into an angry little ball and don't let anyone touch me until I can at least put a cute necklace on, damnit. So, I say show your originality...with accessories.
Carry a bright but classic bag:
This would look fabulous with a pretty scarf tied around the handle too.
Furla, $126, bluefly.com
Prada small leather briefcase, approximately the same price as a term of school at a public university (but totally worth it, right? right?), bluefly.com
Necklaces and bracelets are a good way to take a bit more of a fashion risk in a job interview, because if you walk in and find that all the other employees are wearing robes and bonnets and ritually burning copies of Elle Accessories magazine, you can just throw your offending jewelry in your purse and no one will be the wiser. But I would advise walking out if there is a ritual fire of any kind in your prospective employer's office. See what a great blog this is? You ask for fashion advice, I throw in some career counseling for free.
"Magnolia Pendant" by Lulu Smith, $220, guild.com
"Baroque Bead Necklace" by Eloise Cotton, $250, guild.com
"Moonblossom Choker" by Amanda Khalsa, $230, guild.com (sorry for all the 3-digit pricetags--the second I visit that website, I go blind to prices and see only beauty.)
"Squared Away" bracelet, $25, etsy, here.
Nordstrom Interlocking Bangle Bracelet, $48, nordstrom.com
Godspeed my long-lost Oregon sister. And remember, if you land this job, you owe me a cut of that huge social service agency paycheck.
p.s. I've got a few emails and comments expressing interest in the hot-weather job interview concept, so I'll probably do a couple more posts about this featuring some different options for different body types and work environments.