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My Readers Iz Smarter Than I – Interview Fashion Edition

February 29th, 2008 · 5 Comments

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I got the following question in my Ask Brian email.

Please help! I am a thirty something male with questionable fashion sense of my own, and thus do not feel qualified to offer any guidance in this area.

Perhaps a reader more qualified than I can pass along some advice in the comments.

I have a question. I’m helping my twenty-something niece w/shopping for an interview. She is interviewing for a tutor/teacher position. This wouldn’t be a prob except she is 5’4″ and very very heavy (top and middle). What can I suggest for her (I’m from the 70’s-80’s navy suit era which would not be appropriate for today’s young people)…help!

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Tags: Getting Ahead · Interviewing

  • Lawyer’s Right Hand

    For a top-heavy figure, a tailored jacket is a must to accentuate a feminine silhouette — and keep the jacket buttoned to maximize the effect. A knee-length, bias-cut skirt works well on that figure-type also. Underneath the jacket, either an open-collared shirt or a sweater with a deep V-neck. Since it’s not a business setting, your niece doesn’t necessarily have to wear a matched suit (although it would be fine to do so); coordinates would be fine. Choose colors to compliment her complexion and hair, and keep it on the sober side with maybe a pop of color from the shirt or a scarf. Shoes should have a bit of heel on them, but not too much if she isn’t comfortable walking in heels. And don’t forget a “firm foundation” for any problem areas.

  • Brian

    Wow! Perfect. Thank you.

  • Jodith

    Well, I thought that was a really good suggestion until I got the the “firm foundation” part.

    Look just say what you mean. She should wear a girdle because everyone knows a woman can’t get a job if she’s fat *rolls eyes*.

    Here’s a couple of tips for someone who’s top heavy and wants to minimize the look of the bust:

    1) No ruffles on the top!
    2) A v-neck or other deep neck is good as long as it doesn’t show her entire décolletage.
    3) A jacket, as long as it fits well, is a really good look for persons who are top heavy. But if it doesn’t fit well, it only makes her look frumpy (and trust me, I have frumpy down to a fine art). An unstructured jacket, as opposed to a fitted one, will often give a nice long line to someone who is top heavy. I prefer to wear it unbuttoned to give it a straighter line.
    4) No heavy necklaces that hit at the bust line. A lower neck line with a short necklace to bring the eye up is a good choice.
    5) A shorter skirt gives a nice, energetic look. I loath above the knee skirts myself, but I wear them for interviews because they look nice.
    6) A monotone from shoulder to knee gives a nice, sleek look. It draws the eye down so it isn’t as likely to stick at the bust. You can use a bright colored blouse to spark some color if wearing a more bland colored suit (like black, brown, navy or beige). Or if her coloring is right, she can just wear a bright colored suit to start with.
    7) Don’t forget hair style and grooming. A smart hair style and manicure won’t make her more qualified for the job, but it’ll help her feel more confident going into the interview.

  • JNB

    What a great question!

    As a “woman of size” who is also a business professional, it isn’t always easy finding clothes that look good, make you feel good, and are affordable.

    I echo much of the advice above, including the importance of a “good foundation.” I wouldn’t know a girdle if one came up and introduced itself…but a proper bra is a must! This is a tough topic if you are an uncle giving advice to a niece, but have her stop by here and see the words of wisdom.

    Visit a larger Lane Bryant store and have a fitting done by someone who is trained in these issues. A larger store is a.) more likely to have someone who knows how to do this, and b.) is more likely to have a wide range of sizes you can try on in the store. Mail order is too difficult in my opinion – you have to “try before you buy” in this area.

    A proper fitting bra will make a TREMENDOUS difference in how clothes fit – especially jackets. *Especially* constructed jackets. THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR THIS ISSUE!!! It will be a night and day difference for any woman who has been wearing an improperly fitted or sized bra.

    And – not to put too fine a point on it….the more well endowed a woman is…the more importance this issue has. It impacts how clothes fit, how the woman feels about herself, how she appears to others, and – how comfortable she is.

    OK – having said that….

    1.) I love unconstructed jackets – I wear them all the time. I wouldn’t button one if the interview depended on it. Yuck. Not my look. Draws waaaaay too much attention to the chest and looks like you’re strapped into a car seat most of the time.

    I think a suit jacket would look too stiff for a teacher/tutor position. You could use well-matched separates to achieve a professional look without a suit.

    2.) Go to a store that specializes in women’s professional clothes (Lane Bryant for some things, Macy’s and other large department stores, Nordstrom, CJ Banks [casual, but I’ve found some fun mix and match pieces], and Talbot’s) and find a salesperson you can work with. Have her help you try on a wide range of styles and find some classic silhouettes that work. That way you know what type of jackets work best – and you know what to look for on sale.

    Find out when they have sales, and have the salesperson give you a head’s up (or subscribe to their email notifications)

    3.) Look for key details in fit – sleeve length is huge. WHY do designers think that larger women need foot wide arm holes and 6 ft. long sleeves!!!! ???? Unreal. Don’t make the mistake of wearing sleeves that are too long, just to get the bustline to fit. Take them to a tailor and have them re-hemmed or re-cuffed- an absolute must for an interview.

    Where does the seam between the arm and body of the jacket fall? It should hit at the top of your shoulder, give or take an inch. To get the bustline to fit, most jackets will have that seam fall too far down the arm. Look for a different cut, or again…tailor.

    Jacket length is also critical. Avoid jackets that look good from the front, but cross the widest part of the rear end. I prefer a longer jacket (for just that reason), but again…too long looks sloppy as well. Short jackets have potential, but I will only wear one if I have on a skirt or a looser cut of pants.

    Tops under the jacket should complement the jacket, provide a bit of color, and be comfortable. For interviews, stick to classic necklines and avoid extremes. If you think it *might* be too low cut – IT IS. You want the interviewers to focus on your brains and your qualifications…not your chest. It’s just completely distracting, whether it’s a man or woman doing the interviewing.

    NO CLEAVAGE IN AN INTERVIEW! NONE! ZIP! ZERO! NADA! This shouldn’t have to be said, but if you watch “What Not To Wear” regularly…you see that it’s necessary to mention…

    4.) Pants MUST be tried on to find the best fit. Avoid suits for these exact reasons…it’s going to be very tough to find a suit that will fit well on both the top and bottom. It can be done, but that’s one reason I’m a huge separates fan. I only buy quality pieces that will mix with the others in my closet.

    Not too tight, not too loose, not too long, and NOT TOO SHORT. Yikes.

    When you fine a brand and a cut that you like, buy a couple of pairs. If they are good quality and a classic cut, you will wear them for years possibly. Mix and match with trendier tops to update the wardrobe every year.

    I paid $88 for several pairs in basic colors (didn’t buy them all at once) from Talbot’s and have literally worn them weekly for over 3 years.

    They look good, wash and tumble dry, go with a wide range of jackets and tops, etc. If I price them on a “per wearing” basis, it’s literally pennies per use. Plus, I know what to look for when that brand is on sale – I don’t have to try them on to know they’ll fit and look good.

    5.) When starting out, spend money on classic pieces that look great on – and then accessorize. I LOVE scarves and how they can change the look of an outfit. I have dozens and dozens for all times of the year. Because I’m tall, I look very good with longer scarves draped inside the neck of an unconstructed jacket. I’m finding that I have a hard time working with square scarves – they look too “80’s” to me anymore. I’m only buying longer ones these days.

    I love jewelry and make my own beaded creations. It’s fun to again mix and match – or make the perfect pair as I’m headed out the door.

    If not a big jewelry fan, go the jewelry counter in a larger dept. store and ask one of the sales ladies to help you pick out a one or two classic styles from a reputable brand. Some (I can’t remember who) will last much longer than others – the finish will stay shiny and not look worn too quickly.

    There’s no problem with wearing the same classic pair of posts or small hoops on a daily basis – simple and chic, even.

    You could also pick up a nice pair of crystal solitaires (if you’re not in the mood to buy yourself a pair of diamonds :-) ). Look for a good quality pair of fakes, and don’t look like a newly minted college basketball star with a brand new NBA contract. Earrings don’t have to be tiny, but the gleam from your bling shouldn’t blind everyone at the interview. Subtle, professional, feminine, etc.

    6.) Shoes – go for classic, comfortable looks in real leather. Most shoe and dept stores have sales regularly – pick up a pair in black, brown and perhaps navy. Take your cues from the clothes you’ve selected. A low heel is good – more professional and comfortable. Larger women tottering around in 4-inch heels looks odd to me. Avoid ballet flats or other real flat looks – a larger woman looks like she’s slapping along, I think, in these flat, flat shoes.

    Is it more difficult to find good looking, comfortable, professional clothes if you’re not a size 2? Yes it is. So what? Take the extra time to find people who can help, can give honest answers, show you the best styles and cuts to flatter your body – and then knock ‘em dead!

    You have as much to offer the world as anyone – don’t let your clothes hold you back from letting everyone find that out.

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