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Ask Belle: First Interview Suits

Hi Belle,

I have an interview next week. I’m mid-career in the fed gov. I regularly wear dresses or skirt/top/sweater combos to work. I haven’t interviewed for several years and need a new suit, and I have exactly one week to get it done.

Are J. Crew suits still good quality? If so, what’s better – the stretch wool line or the super 120s line? What about Brooks Brothers? What’s better – pants or skirt? Any other suggestions?

Thanks, C

Your interview suit should be the definition of basic–the simpler, the better.  I prefer skirt suits for first interview, but if you’re more comfortable in pants, that’s fine too.  I would avoid skinny trousers, however.  The slimmer pants are far less traditional than a trouser cut, and, in my opinion, not as professional.

The J.Crew suits are fine.  Not as good as they used to be, but if you can grab one on sale, decent quality for the price. (I wouldn’t pay full price for one though.)  I own a suit from the Super120s line.  On a scale of 1-10, I’d give it a 7.


Classic Fit Wool Jacket ($498)

Brooks Brothers makes a nice suit.  The challenge when shopping there is that most of the suits are made in traditional cuts or fabrics that verge on matronly.  However, the classic two-button suit above is a great option for any age group.  This classic navy suit with a one-button jacket and this charcoal grey Stellita suit are both good options for a first interview.

If you’re searching for suiting in this price point, I recommend BOSS by Hugo Boss suits.  I purchased on on eBay last year, and it’s my favorite suit.  They’re well made, the right mix of basic and unique, and don’t require much tailoring.  This Jadena blazer in sharkskin blue is my favorite.

Other brands to look into in this price range are Lafayette 148, Classiques Entier, and Elie Tahari.


 Calvin Klein Charcoal Suit ($99 + $49)

If you’re looking for suits in a lower price point, Calvin Klein is a good place to start.  This charcoal suit is a lovely basic.  Tahari ASL is another option, but you have to be able to sort through the chaff.  This skirt suit with a sleek peplum is a lovely choice.

Ann Taylor is another retailer who makes professional suiting at affordable prices.  However, since the cuts aren’t the greatest, tailoring is essential.  I purchased this Ann Taylor peplum suit, and I like it.  I also know several people who own their all-season, two-button suit and give it good reviews.  It also comes in petite and tall sizes.

Another place to look for mid-price suiting is Dillard’s.  Antonio Melani makes some amazing suits in the under-$200 price range.  This Annabelle suit is a great basic, and the quality is quite good for the price.  Gianni Bini also offers a couple of modern pant suits.

Other brands in this price point include The Limited and Banana Republic.



  1. Michelle Smith says:

    I have the Calvin Klein charcoal suit and have worn it a million times. It’s a great staple for the work wardrobe.

    December 8, 2014/Reply
  2. Katie says:

    Ann Taylor suits are fantastic if you are on the short side of petite (5’1″ or 5’2″) and don’t have time to get something altered. They actually carry petite pieces in store and it is the only suit that I haven’t had to have altered for length.

    December 8, 2014/Reply
  3. Ally says:

    I own that Calvin Klein suit in charcoal and in black. I love them! The pieces of them have been worn once weekly for the past two years and have held up very well. Macy’s carries a wide variety of Calvin Klein suiting that can be mixed and matched to create cute outfits. I picked up a red suit jacket on Black Friday that I love to mix with the charcoal skirt.

    December 8, 2014/Reply
  4. Julie says:

    A vote for Theory here. They’ve updated the pencil skirts, so they’re now lined, which is awesome. The suiting runs small, and I know petite people love Theory, but I’m fairly tall (5’9) and the length always works out well for me.

    December 8, 2014/Reply
  5. Nic says:

    I recently purchased two Banana Republic suits and was extremely disappointed with the quality. The wool fabric is so thin and the cuts are not flattering.

    December 8, 2014/Reply
  6. Gabby says:

    As a curvy (size 8, but very busty) short lady, Tahari ASL suits were my jam when I wore suits regularly, because I didn’t need to get them altered, like, at all. I usually sized down to a 6 in that line for the best fit even with a large bust and they fit perfectly.

    December 9, 2014/Reply