What to Wear to Make an Impression

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By Shayna Miller

The common refrain of “I have nothing to wear” is never more true for some when they think about what to wear to a job interview. It’s tough—do you go corporate suit-and-tie, or casual khakis and a button-up? Ladies, do you always

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opt for the safe suit choice as well, or do you ever mix it up?

In addition, what to wear to work has become more fluid than ever, and more sartorial choices have become acceptable. For example, where I work, almost anything goes if you’re not in the sales department. That means in the art department everyone wears jeans every day. But for those who meet with clients outside of the office, or for editors who have interviews, it’s standard to dress up in business casual or formal ensembles.

Here’s what I generally follow:

If you’re in doubt, don’t wear it. Why? Normally your first gut-check reaction to a look is the best one. Not sure if that skirt is too tight or short? I’d advise against it. Same with if something’s too casual. Better to opt formal than casual.

You can still have fun with your look. In a business corporate environment, the definition of “having fun with your look” is a bit narrower. But that doesn’t mean you still can’t inject personality into a look. Women might opt for a snake-print flat or heel with an all-black suit. Or pair a khaki linen jacket with black pants, or add a fun belt to a jacket instead of buttoning it. Guys can get that fun polka-dotted tie, or mix up a jacket and pant.

Fashion rules are much more relaxed than they are in the past. I wrote a blog about this recently—the idea that being a little imperfect is OK. The rule about white and Labor Day? Over it. Wearing black and brown together? It’s OK—in the right outfit. Even mixing prints can is hot right now! I always encourage people to make their personal stamp on a look—within the confines of your office’s dress code.

Your clothes do make an impression of what people think of you—whether you like it or not. Or to invoke the oft-repeated phrase,

“you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Of course in a job interview this is crucial. What do you want to convey to the interviewer? If you’re looking in a creative field, express yourself in your clothing! In a corporate environment, make sure you check with others who work in the field to see what’s standard. If you already have a job, what do you want your boss or coworkers to think of you and what you wear? It’s easy to let go after you have a job, but doing that isn’t always a wise idea, especially if you work in a corporate environment where a promotion could be around the corner.

I always recommend wearing a statement piece every day—it expresses who you are and provides a conversation piece. You’d be surprised how many positive comments

I get from both sexes on the shoes I wear or accessories I sport—people like uniqueness, and it’s good to be remembered.

Rarely, if ever, does anyone get their dream job in sweatpants—so step it up!

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to look great. If you don’t have a job yet there are ways to still cobble together an impressive look for less. I always search consignment and vintage shops for one-of-a-kind, extremely affordable pieces. People never believe it when I tell them something’s from a consignment shop! Stores like Target, New York & Company, H&M, The Limited and department stores are other reliable places to pick up affordable workwear. Many of them have one-day specials (like New York & Company) and coupons (The Limited, department stores) that make it even easier to find something you love.

Also: never doubt the ability to wear the same thing in several ways. I once had a friend tell me she’s never seen me wear the same thing twice—which couldn’t be further from the truth! I just find ways to wear my go-to wardrobe pieces (skirts, dress pants, shoes) in fun and different ways all of the time. And really, does anyone remember what you wore to the office last week anyway? So make ’em think you’ve got a to-die-for wardrobe—even if you’re just mixing it up.

Got a workwear or wardrobe dilemma? Email me at smiller@madisonmagazine.com!