Ask the Edit: Vol IV, No. Twenty-Five

Interview attire for a casual office, high-school reunion ideas, and inexpensive gowns…

Hi Abra,

I have a job interview in a couple weeks in WA. The official invite explicitly states “[this company] is a business casual company; no suit and tie are required for your visit.” Besides being annoyed that this statement is geared towards men I also don’t know what to wear if I can’t wear my Brooks Brothers suit. The job I am interviewing for is a high level technical position and I also may be going out into the field during this interview. In other words, pants and flats are a requirement. Any suggestions?

Thank you! Jen

Despite being “business casual,” I probably wouldn’t wear a pair of jeans.  I also probably wouldn’t wear a jacket.  If you think pants and flats are a must, I would choose a good pair of trousers and cool top.

I would wear these NYDJ navy trousers and these navy flats.  I would add a cool blouse like this Boden Ella top.  If you want to do something more creative, I would wear a pair of dark green pants with the pale pink Ella top.  Another option would be these cool navy pants with a red stripe and a white peplum blouse.

If you feel like a jacket is appropriate, choose something on the casual side.  This Mango padded shoulder jacket and this pink jacket with a ruffled shoulder would be good choices.


I am in the final stage of a project at work (thank goodness!!). I have a couple of people who have been a great help to me and I wanted to thank them with a sincere note and small gift. Is this appropriate? If so, what would you recommend as gifts? My budget is beyond small! Thanks for your help!

– DC 

I wouldn’t buy gifts.  It’s nice that you want to show your appreciation.  I would just invite everyone to a nice lunch off campus or drinks.  If you’re set on a gift, I would send everyone a thoughtful thank you note with a gift card in it to a nearby coffee place, restaurant, or Amazon.

Hi Abra.

I have my 20 year (gasp!) high school reunion coming up in September at a winery. Dress code says casual but I don’t want to be plain. Suggestions? Thanks!

– Michelle 

Bright colors are always good for creating a memorable outfit.  The question is do you want to wear a dress or jeans/top.

If it’ll still be warm, I have this red eyelet dress from H&M, and I love it.  This ruffle-trim shirtdress from Old Navy would also look great with a pair of suede booties.  If color isn’t your preference, this grey dress with a gathered waist is very cool.  Plus-size or Petite?  This mixed eyelet and lace dress from Talbot’s comes in a bold red as well.

If you prefer to wear jeans, I would try either a slim bootcut or a distressed skinny.  I would choose a peplum blouse like this Elizabeth & James.  This poppy-print wrap top from Missguided is another great choice.  I also like this cobalt blouse with a shirred sleeve.

The important thing to remember for a reunion is to spend time on your makeup and hair.  That’s what will make you feel like you look your best.  And it’ll make all the pictures look awesome.

Hi Belle!

I have a black tie wedding to attend this November and I am already nervous about finding a dress. I’d like to spend under $250, and while I would be happy to buy or rent, the biggest issue is my height: I’m 5’1 and a foot injury precludes me from wearing heels. I would love some advice on where to look!

Thanks. Anon

For petite gowns, ASOS has a pretty good selection in your price range.  This Jarlo lace dress is just pure awesomeness.  I’d wear it with these pink slingback flats or these silver brooch flats.  ASOS has inexpensive gowns in all sizes, including misses and plus.

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  1. Jenn S. says:

    Chiming in re: Work Gifts – I also wouldn’t buy gifts in this scenario. Flipping it around, if I were a resource on the project I would feel odd about being given a gift for what amounts to doing my job from a teammate or boss.

    August 24, 2017/Reply
    • Allison says:

      I wouldn’t give gifts for co-workers doing their jobs, but when they go above and beyond, I think recognition is a great way to encourage teamwork and provide fulfillment for the co-workers who worked particularly hard.

      August 24, 2017/Reply
    • Christine says:

      also chiming in – in my office, gift cards were awarded weekly to team members who did something “great” during the week, which actually just turned into the same people getting gift cards because their managers were just the type to nominate them, while other staff just happened to work for managers with different personalities, who didn’t think to nominate as often. It brought down morale due to the disparity – I wouldn’t recommend it.

      August 24, 2017/Reply
  2. Yael @ Nosherium says:

    I work in a business casual office now and would go with a sweat-camouflaging blouse, trousers and comfortable booties (have two pairs of Aquatalia low-heeled ones that are my go-to meeting shoes) rather than flats. I can’t seem to keep flats on my feet! I like having a stretchy blazer with me in case I need a boost of confidence. I like the Boden ponte blazers especially.

    August 24, 2017/Reply
    • pam says:

      I agree that having an unmatched (not a suit blazer with suit pants) blazer is still a good idea, a knit one, or the lovely white Mango one Belle linked to would be perfect. You can drop it if you don’t see any, but it will show you are professional, higher level and take it seriously – but have creativity and flexibility too.

      August 24, 2017/Reply
  3. Sara says:

    Great suggestion for ASOS on petite gowns.
    Regarding Rent the Runway as a petite woman – I’m 5’0, and I ~have~ successfully rented from RTR… their photos/reviews for dresses are easy to sort through and you can see how it looks on women with similar height/build. It’s been a lifesaver this year for me (SEVEN weddings!) but ASOS is a fantastic suggestion as well.

    August 24, 2017/Reply
    • e says:

      That is so helpful Sara – thanks! I submitted the question originally. Long dresses paired with me being short and forced into flat shoes has been my concern – looking to the customer photos is a great idea. Thanks again!

      August 24, 2017/Reply
      • Anna says:

        Order with a day or two of lead time. They’re usually pretty good about sending replacements if there are fit issues. Depending on your body type, you can get a dress that would be easy enough to shorten with some fashion tape (e.g. a sheath v. something flowy on the bottom).

        August 24, 2017/Reply
  4. Eddie says:

    Quick note on the interview in WA: as a local, this is a real thing. There is a woman at the Seattle flagship Nordstrom whose job it is to “dress down” East Coast interviewers for tech companies. She usually steers women towards chic but unusual jackets and sweaters, asymmetrical designs, and away from heels.

    August 24, 2017/Reply
    • a says:

      Wow, crazy that this is an actual job!!

      August 24, 2017/Reply
    • L says:

      I second this. Those navy pants with a red stripe would be given some serious side eye. I know I would do a double-take during my morning commute if I saw someone wearing those. In Seattle, it is totally acceptable to throw a Columbia or North Face jacket over an evening gown (*cringe*).

      The best advice I was given was to wear well fitting black/dark jeans, a “dressier” t-shirt (e.g. higher quality fabric Banana Republic with a nice neckline) or sweater (e.g. JCrew Tippi sweater), and black flats.

      If you’ll be doing any whiteboarding, pack your own skinny markers. You’ll thank me when your hand isn’t cramping at the end of the day.

      August 25, 2017/Reply