Interview Suiting for Women: Confused.

I've been lurking on the forums for a while, and saw everyone recommending Navy over Black suiting, so I retired my black suit, and went and got a new one tailored in a rush for my interviews.

I've been interviewing for graduate roles in some institutional banks, including one of our Big 4 banks, a Big 4 consulting/accounting firm, and a Fortune 500 company for consulting.

But I've noticed often everyone except me (guys and girls) is wearing a black suit, with some even with subtle pinstripes. There was one guy who wore a grey suit, and a few, but not many, charcoal suits. However, most people are choosing to wear black.

When I visit the federal law courts I see a lot of navy suiting, and when I meet with CEOs and Company directors. But on an entry level, I'm not seeing it.

Why do the forums seem to say black is a awful colour for suiting, yet everyone in the interviews seem to be wearing black? Is it that outside investment banking it's not as important to differentiate between black and navy suiting? Or is Australian dress standards for business attire different to the rest of the world?

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Comments (29)

May 22, 2012 - 8:14am

I think the "no black wso/">suits" might be an American thing...it is very common in Asia, according to my international friends from college.

It still doesn't change the fact that they make you look more pale than you already are. However, I saw a lot of black wso/">suits at superdays in the USA. I think a lot of recent graduates own one wso/">suit, and they initially bought it for a funeral.

May 22, 2012 - 8:59am
West Coast rainmaker:
I think the "no black wso/">suits" might be an American thing...it is very common in Asia, according to my international friends from college.
l.

It's an anyone with a scintilla of taste thing, not an American thing.

"After you work on Wall Street it’s a choice, would you rather work at McDonalds or on the sell-side? I would choose McDonalds over the sell-side.” - David Tepper
May 22, 2012 - 9:01am

This is also very confusing to me.
I had 3 rounds of interviews with a hedge fund recently, the first and second round I was wearing grey and black skirt wso/">suits and things went lovely, they scheduled my next round on the spot. 3rd round I went in wearing a navy pant wso/">suit and a white button down and it all ended in 20 minutes.

I later got a feedback from my recruiter saying that she (my interviewer) thought I was dressed inappropriately!!!! I am baffled. Not sure if I should hate navy blue, pant wso/">suits, or women in general.

I may not be on the Jedi Council, but I sure am great with the Force.

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May 22, 2012 - 9:03am
Disincentivy:
This is also very confusing to me.
I had 3 rounds of interviews with a hedge fund recently, the first and second round I was wearing grey and black skirt wso/">suits and things went lovely, they scheduled my next round on the spot. 3rd round I went in wearing a navy pant wso/">suit and a white button down and it all ended in 20 minutes.

I later got a feedback from my recruiter saying that she (my interviewer) thought I was dressed inappropriately!!!! I am baffled. Not sure if I should hate navy blue, pant wso/">suits, or women in general.

That's because you had your bewbs out.

"After you work on Wall Street it’s a choice, would you rather work at McDonalds or on the sell-side? I would choose McDonalds over the sell-side.” - David Tepper
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May 22, 2012 - 9:08am
Disincentivy:
This is also very confusing to me.
I had 3 rounds of interviews with a hedge fund recently, the first and second round I was wearing grey and black skirt wso/">suits and things went lovely, they scheduled my next round on the spot. 3rd round I went in wearing a navy pant wso/">suit and a white button down and it all ended in 20 minutes.

I later got a feedback from my recruiter saying that she (my interviewer) thought I was dressed inappropriately!!!! I am baffled. Not sure if I should hate navy blue, pant wso/">suits, or women in general.

That's really weird... My guess is they didn't like the pants (assuming they aren't just giving a weird excuse). Dress skirts, from my understanding, are more traditional/formal, but it seems silly in this day and age. And generally women have more leeway on what they can wear in a professional setting.

That's a shame - but maybe you dodged a bullet. If they're going to make so much fuss over a navy pantsuit, it's probably not the nicest of places to work.

May 22, 2012 - 9:12am

OP - Sometimes I've seen very dark wso/">suits (dark charcoal) and mistake it for black. Anyway, I don't know the general reasoning behind it but someone mentioned that it's because black wso/">suits are associated with funerals.

I think a wso/">suit that borders on black but has wso/">pinstripes is fine. But in general there's more accepted variety and leeway with professional wear for women than men.

May 22, 2012 - 9:20am

You're right Kanon, I was told by so many recruiters I should wear pant wso/">suits when interviewing with women and skirt wso/">suits when with men. Oh well, I wouldn't want her to be my boss anyway.

Oreos- button down wso/">shirt and bewbs out... Yeah, no...That doesn't work.

I may not be on the Jedi Council, but I sure am great with the Force.

See my WSO blog posts

May 22, 2012 - 9:39am
Disincentivy:
Oreos- button down wso/">shirt and bewbs out... Yeah, no...That doesn't work.

Didn't read, too busy thinking about beeewbs.

"After you work on Wall Street it’s a choice, would you rather work at McDonalds or on the sell-side? I would choose McDonalds over the sell-side.” - David Tepper
May 22, 2012 - 9:56am

Black wso/">suits are more of a formality than a work piece, it's just an overly serious color. In Europe, at least in Italy and France (where they take fashion pretty seriously) black wso/">suits are almost nonexistent. Black is usually reserved for funerals, black-tie, and nightlife.

You mentioned how all the entry level positions are full of black wso/">suits, but at the higher C-levels they aren't. That is not a coincidence at all, most kids have no clue on how to dress appropriately for the business world therefore they show up in their black wso/">suits because they figure black = serious, work = serious, so black = work. Which is for the most part wrong, so don't feel self-conscious because you're not wearing black because you probably look a hell of a lot better than the rest of them.

May 26, 2012 - 6:13am
shorttheworld:
are you sure they arent very dark charcoal wso/">suits?

and its because youre interviewing with people in audit, do people in audit even wear wso/">suits?

you mighthave wanted to put the Australian part at the very beginning bt w

In Queensland we have such bright sun, I thought I would tell if it was Charcoal or Black. Maybe some people avoided charcoal because they don't want it to look like a faded wso/">suit in our tropical climate, despite it being winter? It's purely speculative.

I don't think I was interviewing for Audit, the only auditing in the roles was applying for that was mentioned was forensic auditing but at this stage I'm not an accountant, so I won't be doing that. Oh, and maybe systems audit... Only one of the jobs has been with Assurance, one is straight Consulting (Business Solutions), and the others in the institutional banks were Generalist Banking roles. Both the Assurance and Consulting roles are 80% client facing roles, working with Government, Mining, Energy and Banking sectors, and the clients are either public sector or medium/large business. Some of the companies have wso/">suits. Do you think I won't need to wear one at work?

Most of the people I met from each of the companies were wearing wso/">suits, though some of the men had taken their jackets off. With the graduate students interviewing, it was a bit less-predictable (about 8 of the women wore dresses or skirts without jackets, and about 4 of the guys total had no jackets, in all 4 assessment centres (ie. out of about 54 people in the sample size). Yes, there were some charcoal, but still a lot of black.

SirBarney:
...You mentioned how all the entry level positions are full of black wso/">suits, but at the higher C-levels they aren't. That is not a coincidence at all, most kids have no clue on how to dress appropriately for the business world therefore they show up in their black wso/">suits because they figure black = serious, work = serious, so black = work. Which is for the most part wrong, so don't feel self-conscious because you're not wearing black because you probably look a hell of a lot better than the rest of them.

Thanks for this. It was interesting to look at the breakdown of the company staff which confirms what you were saying.

If they were a partner or managing director, they were wearing navy or charcoal suiting. Managers were harder to predict, one of the managers was wearing a gorgeous navy RL blazer complete with the gold crest on the pocket, but most had wso/">suits, in black, navy and charcoal/grey. Consultants/Associates sometimes didn't still have a jacket on. If they were an internal HR manager or outsourced from a HR Company it was usually a wso/">black suit.

RGE:
Short skirt+no panties/ Pretty Face^2 x Nice Figure = Hired.

I misread that for a second, thinking ^2 was x2 and thought about someone with 2 heads in a client role.

Most HR staff are women. Everyone I've had individual interviews with had either a women and man interviewing or just a woman interviewing me. I don't think that's the reason I got my offer, this time.

Aug 3, 2017 - 7:48am

Black for women is fine, especially outside America. Dress standards are a lot more flexible for women in general, and Americans are more formal than Australians. What could be commonplace in an American office can be perceived as frumpy in Australia, and what seems elegant in Australia might be inappropriate in the US.

I would say though, most women I know spend money on really nice dresses and accompanying blazers. Consider Review/Cue/Diana Ferrari, or similar brands.

Aug 3, 2017 - 7:49am

So many suit questions. (interview suit for females) (Originally Posted: 12/27/2007)

I've looked through some older posts and have searched the internet, but it's harder to come by information about suits for women with regards to finance and dressing my age (college student), so I'm just wondering a few things as recruiting begins...

  1. Wool, right? Up to what percentage other material (spandex/lycra or whatever) is allowable? Polyester?? I looked for hours today, and it was difficult to find more than 96% wool- and those are really thin.
  2. On that note, where can I get a decent suit?? Or which brands are usually safe bets? A safe budgetary estimate would be up to $200 or so.
  3. Is there a standard in choosing types of pockets, number of buttons (2?), a breastpocket (no?), stitching, etc... or things that I should avoid in the specifics of the suit?
  4. Then... skirt or pantsuit? And are pleats/cuffs okay?
  5. Last but not least.... what color is appropriate for an interview? Do most people wear black?

Thanks in advance! I need to buy a suit that fits me well (so hard to do...) ASAP and will last at least through recruiting season.

Aug 3, 2017 - 7:50am

One word: THEORY. The greatest suit brand ever made for women. I have a black pant suit (you can find them at Nordstroms, Bloomingdales, etc.) Pants run about $235 and jackets $375. Definitely well worth it, looks incredible especially after being tailored correctly.

If your budget doesn't allow, I've found some decent suits that fit very nicely at the Limited. The key here is to find the stuff that is made nicely. After looking around after awhile you will be able to tell what looks cheap and what looks classy. I bought a suit at the Limited a few weeks ago with a "buy one, get one 1/2 off" sale for around $220 for both the jacket and pants. Other options for a $200 budget might include Express. Check out after-holiday sales, but again, be weary that it doesn't look cheap. I'm not sure about the 100% wool requirement you speak of. I know that my nicest Theory suit is 96% wool and this is fine.

Other options... Banana Republic, Club Monaco and Ann Taylor are more affordable than say, a Theory suit. Still, these run around $400 a pop.

As far as buttons, all mine are two buttoned. One tends to look informal and three can make you look too stuffed in your suit.
As a college junior I have both pant and skirtsuits. You want a skirt that hits your knees and usually your best bet will have a small slit in back, just one slit that stays conservative.

I've worn two different color suits to interviews. Dark gray, black... very neutral though. I think women have it easier than guys when it comes to this. More importantly, look put together (you don't need the most expensive suit on the block). What you say and how your present yourself is most important.

Hope this helps!

Oh, and always remember to get your suits tailored. As Warren Buffet said, the most expensive suit can look like crap if it doesn't fit correctly.

Aug 3, 2017 - 7:51am

I am a HUGEEE fan of BCBG Max Azria. Watch for the sales, they're awesome. They have with out a doubt the best professional line. Also, The Limited tends to have well fitting pieces.

Stay away from any pants that are to spandex-y or anything else that would be questionable - - just be conservative.

Start investing in well made suits because you'll wear them for years. Also, depending on where you work the dress code could be more formal.

Good luck!

Aug 3, 2017 - 7:53am

I'll also vouch for the Limited for cheaper suits that work.

Also, I have to throw in my two cents on Banana Republic suits: their fluted and flannel skirt suits are super cute and hit a couple of inches below the knee. This is always an issue for me because I'm 5'9" so suit skirts are always a little on the iffy side for me.

Aug 3, 2017 - 7:54am

as another option, you could check out ann taylor or ann taylor loft - in my experience they were both around the same price points as BR and the limited (i usually only shop their sales), with quality being similar to BR and in my opinion better than the limited. i would also suggest stores like loehmann's if you have the time or inclination - sometimes great deals can be found with a bit of effort. also there are a ton of post holiday sales going on, its a good time to stop by department stores and try to pick up nicer suits and separates for cheaper than usual

Aug 3, 2017 - 7:55am

Thanks for all of the advice!!! I'm going to try to find a suit now (attempt #2). On a related note, what colors/fabrics are allowable for wearing underneath the suit?? I know bright isn't good, but dark blue or dark green (with black)...? Is satin ever in the question for business casual? I also second the J. Crew question.

Aug 3, 2017 - 7:56am

If you are in the NYC area, go to Woodbury Commons in upstate NY. BCBG there is having a huge sale-- 50$ a piece for suit jacket, pants, or skirt (maybe that's cheaper)-- a good selection and all sizes (more or less) are available.

Oh, apparently Hickey Freeman across the walkway is having a huge (extra 50% off) sale too.

Aug 3, 2017 - 7:57am

Although you might want to be the one standing out, but wearing colorful suits is not a that great.  Just go with black or dark navy/blue suit with white shirt (or other lighter color)

Ling~

Ling~

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