Ask Belle: Three Queries About Suiting

Nov 5, 2015

Hi Belle,

Medical residency interviews are picking up and I need a suit.  Is there one style or color that you recommend for a first timer?

Kim

For any job-seeker, I recommend owning two suits.  First off, you need a second suit in case you get a call-back interview.  Also, it’s good to have a back up in case your first suit is at the cleaner or gets a stain/rip.  So it’s always good to have two suits on hand if you’ll be doing several interviews.

As for style, keep it simple.  A one-button or two-button jacket (depending on what’s flattering to your figure), long sleeves (none of that 3/4 BS), and a simple skirt or trouser on bottom.  I advise against skinny pants; they can look juvenile.  If you wear a skirt, knee length or just a hair above (no mini-skirts).

I recommend a mid-weight or lightweight wool for wear in all seasons.  I also recommend sticking to black, grey, navy or dark brown.  Now is not the time for a hot pink business suit.  White is also a bad choice because it’s less professional and can easily get dirty when traveling.

Snip20151104_11

AT Coffeebean Wool Suit Jacket ($198)

Ann Taylor is a great place to start.  This black triacetate suit is a great basic in a modern cut.  I usually hate brown suits, but this coffee-colored wool suit looks great.  And this charcoal suit looks great.

For something more affordable, I love this Halogen one-button suit (also in petite).  BR Factory offers this pinstripe suit, and J.Crew Factory has a suit with a lovely collarless navy blazer.

Dear Belle,

I work in a very conservative government legal office in the Midwest. Some of my male coworkers were talking recently about suits. Two of them stated that black suits are inappropriate for anything but weddings and funerals. I see so many black suits for women, and I don’t imagine they are for weddings or funerals alone. Can you shed light on this?

Thank you! KB

I’ve heard the bit about men’s suits before.  My former Chief of Staff was adamant that men should only wear black suits to funerals and weddings.  But I have never heard this argument expanded to women.

Most women’s suit-makers sell a black suit as their foundation color, so it would be very difficult for women who wear suits to avoid black.  Plus, I don’t think a black business suit is standard attire for women at a wedding.

This strikes me as a men-only rule.

Hi, Belle,

My suit game is pretty on point (if I do say so) and I want to add two or three more blazers.  You talk sometimes about “swapping” other colors.  What colors do you think work best for navy and black suits? 

Love the blog bunches! Lia

I like to wear my suit bottoms with jackets of different colors and textures to keep things fresh.  For those colors I would recommend a few different styles.

Tweed or textured jackets are always a nice option.  A collarless boucle jacket with a black pencil is nice.  Or a navy and white tweed jacket with navy pants.  With the navy, you could also bring in a color like this red tweed blazer with a coordinating red blouse.

White is a versatile choice.  I like this simple blazer from Theory. This modern-cut Osklen blazer is a daring option.

Jewel tones are another option if you like color.  I like peacock teal or emerald green with grey and navy.  A deep aubergine is always a nice option.  Sapphire hues look great with black.

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  1. Anna says:

    What do you recommend wearing under a boucle or otherwise busy-patterned jacket? I’m always at a loss.

    • Jennifer D says:

      Greeting Anna – Let your fabulous jacket be the star of your outfit and pair it with a solid-color, plainer top. I’m sure there are many other options out there, but I like this tiered top from J.Crew (style #E3043) – okay I own this one 🙂 The sleeveless drapey popover is another choice (C6249). The silk drapey V-neck is a long-sleeved option in ivory (E2840) and other colors (E2750). Good luck! Jennifer

  2. Jennifer D says:

    Regarding black suits, I’ve always owned one with skirt and pant options and have never felt inappropriate in the office. The Limited touted their black suiting options for while, advertising the same fabric used year after year so buyers could easily add new pieces to their collection. I think black is the perfect backdrop to jewel-toned and patterned blouses.

  3. Lauren Kent-Delany says:

    Belle, you refer to blazers with one button or two depending on what’s flattering to your figure. Could you please elaborate? Thank you.

  4. Jenn says:

    Do you have any recommendations for an ivory blazer? I can’t wear bright white.

  5. TM says:

    What color would you wear under a white suit jacket with a navy or black skirt?

    • Sus says:

      White, black and navy are all neutral colors, so you can wear any other color with them. For winter, jewel tones are nice, such as an emerald or sapphire silk blouse.

  6. Izabelakc says:

    for med residency interviews and or job/fellowship interviews… I always prefer navy/charcoal gray. inevitably all the interviewees wear black and it looks like a traveling funeral. blouses should be white or at the craziest pale blue. very conservative in fit. no cleavage. wear comfortable shoes or pumps. you’ll be walking around tons.

  7. EM says:

    For the person doing medical residency interviews, here are some tips:
    – Stay conservative, especially if you’re going into a surgical, non ob-gyn field. Pretty much everyone will be wearing black, dark gray, or navy blue.
    – The interviews usually include a tour of the hospital, so make sure you have shoes you can walk in for long distances on hard floors!
    – I’ve never heard of a medical residency doing a call back interview, especially since most people travel all across the country to do these interviews. I only have one suit (although I have both skirt and pants as bottoms) and that was fine for both residency and fellowship interviews.
    Good luck!

  8. C says:

    I know Bell has probably been over this before, but what shoes do you wear with a navy suit? I love my trusty black pumps, but I thought there was a rule about not wearing black shoes with navy?

    • Jennifer D says:

      Greetings C – I thought it would make me look like a stewardess, but honestly, I wear navy leather pumps. 9 West’s Flax is a stiletto, and 9 West’s Margot is a mid-heel pump. They are not sold on the website or in 9 West stores, but you can find them at Macy’s (which often runs some sort of sale). An alternative is taupe, which I have in suede and leather.

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