Ask Belle: Looking for Interview Suits

Jun 1, 2015

Dear Belle,

My job search is taking me a long stretch of trips to different cities. The interviews usually take two days, so I need two new suits.  I want to keep the cost of each suit under $300.  Where should I start?

Thanks for your help! CL

The first thing to decided is whether you want to buy skirt suits or pants suits.  Many people still believe that skirts are more formal, but it’s not a hard rule.  I’ve never been a fan of dress suits, but it’s just a personal preference.  I find dresses with identical jackets to be too much of the same fabric.

If you choose pants, decide whether you want to hem them for flats or pumps.  Should you choose flats, remember a pointy-toe shoe lengthens the leg.  As does a shoe the same colors as the trousers.

The next issue is color.  I think navy and black are the best colors.  Grey would be my next choice.  Tan suits are not my favorite, but only because I think darker colors look a bit more sophisticated.

As for where to shop, there are a few good choices.

Dillard’s probably has the best selection of mid-price suiting.  They’re not all winners, but there are some great options.

Snip20150601_5

Jessilyn Boyfriend Jacket and Skirt Suit ($109 and $199)

This suit is a classic.  You can’t go wrong with a classic.  This Gianni Bini pantsuit is also a sleek classic.  For something more modern, this notch-jacket and straight leg trouser combination is a good look.  Need something machine washable?  Try this Alex Marie suit.

Lord & Taylor is another good place to go looking for suits.  The choices can be matronly, but there are some good selections if you’re hunting for basics.  I like this charcoal grey suit with a collarless jacket.

Halogen suits from Nordstrom are fashionable without being inappropriate.  They have basics, but they also go beyond the basics for women who have that part of their wardrobe covered.

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Halogen Crosshatch Suit ($128 jacket, $69 skirt, $78 pants)

This peplum suit has a nice look to it.  For something more classic, try this one-button jacket.  If you like seersucker, this suit with an open jacket actually has a nice look to it.

One of the things I like most about Halogen is that they make many of the same pieces in plus-sizes.  I wish more brands were inclusive.

Ann Taylor probably has the most extensive suiting options of any of the mall brands.  For my figure, their suits require a lot of tailoring, but that’s not true of everyone.  Their all-season suit is a pretty good buy; it’s just too bad that most of the sales don’t include suiting.

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  1. thb says:

    What I really like about Dillards is their in-store/online sales still in Season. They usually have multiple sizes available and lots of mix/match opportunities in the Antonio Melanie and Gianni brands you mentioned. The Calvin Kline dresses are a great buy. Plus they fit great, ear really well and more times than not are available in Petite and Plus. Highly recommend Dillards.

  2. Carey says:

    I’ve recently had really good luck with the Limited for suiting. The pieces are true to size and the fabrics seem to be relatively well made. It isn’t going to last forever, but the mix and match works well for those who need to look polished but don’t have a lot to spend. Additionally, the skirts tend to be an appropriate length (which I can’t say for many other suiting skirts!).

    • Carey says:

      Also, forgot to mention- they have been having great sales so you can get a 3 pieces suit (jacket, pants and skirt) for less than $150. If you need two suits, it would work well to have the skirt suit and pants suit with the same jacket. I doubt your interviewer will care/notice if you have the same jacket on.

  3. D says:

    Check out the Banana Republic outlet. I just got a khaki cotton suit for summer there yesterday for $48. I can’t even wrap my mind around that!! (A jacket and skirt for $48? What? Really? I keep checking the receipt haha.) Obviously khaki cotton isn’t right for an interview, but they had dark suits, as well.

  4. LF says:

    Suggestions for what to wear to first interviews in DC during the summer? Wore a full suit to the last one and felt like a sweaty mess. Does the weather make separates more acceptable than normal?

    • Belle says:

      Not for a first interview. Wear spray on deodorant, and carry a pocket fan and some wet wipes in your purse to freshen up. If you need a suit, you need a suit. Most DC bosses will not accept hot weather as a reason to skip a suit.

    • Anna says:

      Carry the jacket in your hand while you’re walking outside. Aim to get there 30 mins early so you can cool off, don’t show up huffing and puffing, and have a little bit of time to freshen up.

      • Anna says:

        Oh, and offices are usually freezing cold anyways as soon as you cool off from walking in the sweltering heat.

  5. Leslie says:

    As a busty woman, I have to speak up for the dress suit. It allows you to avoid concerns about button up gapping, too tight knit shells, and too low not-knit blouses and shells. It’s just so much simpler.

  6. Kari says:

    I just saw that Ann Taylor is having a sale on their suits until Friday at 3am EST. I thought this would be helpful for the question asker to know.

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