How to Dress for an Interview: Tips from Image Consultant Peggy Parks

By Peggy Parks

Business ConsultationQ. I’m job-hunting but don’t have a lot of money to spend on a new suit. What are some stores that specialize in affordable business-appropriate styles?

A. I would check out Ann Taylor and Banana Republic. These stores cater to younger business women and the salespeople are very helpful. There is no reason to buy full-price; f you wait a few weeks, spring fashions will be on sale. What I like about Ann Taylor is that they specialize in “wardrobing,” which is like Garanimals for grown-ups.

If Ann Taylor is not within your budget, try Ann Taylor LOFT.  The clothes are less expensive here. They are also business appropriate and up to date.

Q. What’s a surefire interview outfit for a corporate job? And should I wear skirts or slacks?

A. I would go with navy. There is a navy for everyone. Regarding skirts or slacks, it depends on the industry. If you are going for a high-level job in the finance arena, wear a navy skirt suit. Make sure you add some color, though, and creativity. You don’t want to look like you’re wearing a uniform. Wear a colorful top underneath or an awesome necklace. The goal is to look professional (with not too much skin showing), up to date, and creative.

You can wear a navy pantsuit if the corporate dress code is not business formal. Always make sure that you find out ahead of time what the dress code is. Even if they say it’s casual, make sure you wear a jacket and dress that is a click above. You want to be remembered in a positive way.

Q. Are there any major wardrobe no-nos I should avoid?

A. Avoid: open-toe sandals, showing too much skin (like cleavage or a short skirt); chipped nail polish; messy hair; huge earrings; ill-fitting clothes; cheap jewelry; tattoos; body piercing; bare legs; too much makeup or no makeup. Don’t wear anything distracting. You want to make sure the interviewer sees you, listens to you, and doesn’t get distracted by dangling earrings or a plunging neckline. Yes, you’ll get attention, but it will be the wrong attention. You’re better off being on the conservative side when interviewing for the first time. The interviewer’s first impression is the one he or she will remember. Make it a great first impression.

If you are carrying a briefcase, leave your purse in the car.

Q. How about for a creative job? Will wearing a suit make me seem too stuffy or out of place?

A. For a PR or marketing firm, you need to show your creativity. Look professional in a creative way. Don’t wear a suit-you’re better off putting separates together. Include color and accessories.

Q. What should I do with my coat/jacket when I come in?

A. If you are wearing a coat over a jacket, take the coat off. Do not take off your jacket. Your jacket is your “power piece” and it images you up.

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Looking for a new job and want to avoid a fashion faux pas? Atlanta-based image consultant Peggy Parks of The Parks Image Group has the answers to your style-related job interview dilemmas.