walk tall and carry a bit stick

My friend Christine is job hunting and has asked my fashion advice, which is sweet considering I haven't held down a day job in a coon's age. But I do go for the odd business meeting, and I think it's a timely question. How does one dress for success without spending a month's wages?

When it comes to meeting strangers that might be one day paying you, this is a definitely Better Safe than Sorry situation. (Apart, of course, from the World's Oldest Profession, in which case, the sky's the limit, girls, and Less is Definitely More). I'm absolutely convinced one can go into any of the good low range shops (or, online if you're not near a big city or branch) and look fabulous.

Take for example Johanna, above, a graduate student in international relations. When I ran into her on Bond Street, she'd just come from a job interview. This, to me, is the perfect summer interview outfit. I'm sure she left her potential future bosses with the impression of an attractive, articulate, intelligent, well groomed, lovely young lady that they'd feel was an asset to their company. I have no idea if her dress was from Prada or Topshop - and neither would they. This is one situation where we want them to remember us, not our dress.

One exception, of course, is the shoes. With shoes, I feel, one can go a bit doo la lah. I remember a story about Kate Hepburn. She was breaking a lot of glass ceilings behind the scenes with the studio execs in those days. Legend has it, when she had a big showdown coming these men, she'd wear her very highest heels. And she was tall to begin with. Those poor guys didn't stand a chance. While I love the look of Johanna's pretty black ballet pumps with the bows, and they're great for getting to the appointment on time (far more important than the outfit!), I like to think that hiding inside her Louis Vuitton handbag were a nice pair of Louboutins, (above), for her to slip into just prior, or one of the more affordable, but still spectacular, variations found in most shops this season, like the Shelley court shoes for £55 from Topshop, below.

Oh, and wear your good luck underwear, or whatever you're superstitious about. My favourite good luck talisman is a small, magic rock (I've got lots of extra ones, for backup, as I've learned it can really freak you out when you lose one) and a purse sized bottle of Jo Malone in Honeysuckle and Jasmine, or French Lime Blossom. If you can't afford good scent, stop off in a department store twenty minutes prior, and apply liberally. Remember girls: if you smell good, you feel great, and it shows.

So walk tall, carry a big stick, smell like an English rose, and knock 'em dead. That's my advice. But if anyone has any other suggestions for Christine, please do let us know!


christine said...

Ah, thanks Jill. One thing I do have is good perfume---My favorites are Eternity by Calvin Klein and Lovely by Sara Jessica Parker.

I must learn how to walk in heels!!

jill said...

How funny - was just about to send you a message about this! Look to your facebook in a few minutes...

Katia said...

In the last couple of interviews I went to I dressed like me, ie a kinda quirky jean-and-jacket look (classic with a twist! :) ). My reasoning was that this is a progressive area where individuality is appreciated, so I might as well not put on a disguise.

I concluded it was a mistake. I don't know if the interviewers thought anything of the clothes, but I stood out so painfully against them (they were all wearing the tech startup uniform of tattered tshirts and jeans) that it made me feel uncomfortable and out of place.

So anyway, perhaps the distilled advice from this is, it's a good idea to dress as a slightly dressier version of the way you expect your interviewers to dress.

Thumbelina Fashionista said...

It all depends on the industry you're trying to invade but for the most part, a suit is the way to go. Even if you're not supposed to dress like that everyday at the job, it's good to dress up a little. You never know.

jill said...

This is an interesting one. I don't know the right answer - and I agree, it depends on the industry, but I agree with TF: it's always good to dress up - in a business suit-ish way. I don't think anyone expects you to dress the same way for a normal work day as when you're applying. It's also a mark of respect to the interviewers, the company, and the position.

Katia: I don't know if your clothes were a mistake as much as maybe the place itself was wrong. Maybe the difference in clothes helped you realise you weren't the right fit for them - or rather, they weren't the right fit for you. I mean, how many times have you heard a friend say something like 'he was cute but he wore the wrong shoes.'

(I had a friend in NY who was going out with the cutest, nicest, most fabulous guy. We had all worked together and he was promoted to a young exec job @ MTV. She broke up with him because they went jeans shopping & he tried on a pair of boot leg jeans. I mean: they were living together! He said he'd have bought any leg she wanted, he didn't care - they each told me versions of this story separately - but her point was, how could she live with someone who didn't even understand why they were so WRONG?

She ended up moving to Seattle and last I knew, was living with a fisherman.)

But I digress. I like Thumbelina's theory: dress up a bit, but not too girly - a skirt suit is just right - and if it's making your interviewers uncomfortable, well you wouldn't want to work with those losers anyway!