Women's Investment Banking Attire

I'm starting a summer internship in investment banking at an American bulge bracket bank soon, and have been having a hard time figuring out exactly what kind of things are appropriate to wear. I'm very slim and not very curvy at all -- most of my clothes now are fitted sleeveless dresses in dark colors, knee-length, from stores like Reiss and Theory. I've paired them with typical conservative blazers for interviews.

More recently I bought a "relaxed blazer" -- basically it doesn't have buttons, is kind of boxy, is a bit shorter than the average blazer and has 3/4 sleeves instead of full-length sleeves. I uploaded an image. Is that sort of blazer work-appropriate?

Also, in general, how conservative should colors be for women? Is a color like cerulean blue too flashy for a dress? Will I be called a funeral director if I wear a black dress with a black blazer?

I'd really appreciate any thoughts anyone might have!

Comments (49)

Jan 26, 2016

The screen capture is pretty low resolution. Is that the Reiss "Alexis" blazer? If so, it's completely fine.

Women's office attire has a bit more leeway than men's. While everyone would agree that men should not wear all black in banking or cerulean blue, women can easily get away with it if styled correctly. Part of it is the amount of accessories we can use and part of it is the fact that men don't care enough about women's fashion to comment on it. Women will let a lot of stuff slide if it's within the realm of "office appropriate" and we see that you are at least trying to look pulled-together.

Jan 28, 2016

Went shopping with a female friend of mine when we were starting our summers together. The general rule for anyone is don't let your clothes be a distraction and you can generally see what your colleagues are wearing as a good heuristic (but understand you haven't started the job yet).

I think that attire described above is appropriate. My female colleagues dress in a similar fashion as you have described above. I think each of them also has a tailored pants suit from Theory also.

Jan 28, 2016

Wait for your first day then mirror what other women wear.
Also, maybe switching black for navy blue items.
Buy some checked dresses or tweed trousers. :)

Mar 8, 2016

My preference is navy blue. As TorontoMonkey1328 mentioned, Theory is a great (and my favorite) place to start. The tailoring is incredible, regardless of your style/size.

Mar 8, 2016

My preference is navy blue. As TorontoMonkey1328 mentioned, Theory is a great (and my favorite) place to start. The tailoring is incredible, regardless of your style/size.

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May 6, 2016

You're look is completely fine and black is a safe color for a business attire. Well, as long as its a dark color there is no problem. Just wear something that is comfortable for you and for your colleagues something that won't distract others.

May 6, 2016

Skirt suit with a blouse. If you found the air to be a little less formal than you thought, take the jacket off.
Heels no higher than 4 inches, minimal jewelery (no pearls unless you are above 40).

Depending on your skin tone, choose between Navy, Grey/charcoal. A chic tote, and most importantly, a watch.

Good Luck

May 6, 2016
Disincentivy:

Skirt suit with a blouse. If you found the air to be a little less formal than you thought, take the jacket off.
Heels no higher than 4 inches, minimal jewelery (no pearls unless you are above 40).

Depending on your skin tone, choose between Navy, Grey/charcoal. A chic tote, and most importantly, a watch.

Good Luck

Totally disagree re: pearls. They are classic and tasteful at any age.

+1 for the skirt suit--should hit the knee and be in navy/charcoal.

The blouse should be modest (no cleavage, not too tight, not see through, no bra showing, etc.) and in a flattering but not loud color (like lavender, shades of blue, etc.). I personally would err on the side of more formal for an interview and opt for a collared blouse.

I would go with black leather heels (patent or not doesn't really matter) rather than nude for an interview. Make sure they are polished if they are not patent leather.

Hair should be out of your face, with flyaways tamed regardless of length. Make-up should be natural looking and enhance your features (the type of makeup that can fool some men into thinking you aren't wearing any and look great au naturale).

May 6, 2016

Why is a watch important...?

May 6, 2016

Bump.

Are dresses under blazers okay? How about sweaters over skirts?

Any good brands for college students without a lot of money to spend on clothing? Can't spend over $100 for one shirt.

May 6, 2016

Wtf does sweaters over skirts mean. And no, dresses are never okay unless its supposed to be business casual. You can get nice shirts from Brooks Brothers for less than $100 on sale

May 6, 2016

Dresses under blazers okay for on the job, but not an interview. Sweaters over skirts definitely not, unless you are applying to be a secretary.

Good brands -- Brooks Brothers sale as suggested above, but if you want to go super cheap, if you get a nicer suit/blazer and dress it up with pearls, basic Banana Republic shirts (like white -- thick enough so it doesn't show anything, or pale blue) can work.

May 6, 2016

If i was the one at the interview, I would expect you to be wearing a skirt suit with a blouse. I mean seriously what less can you expect when you are talking about a business interview. If you like you can go with the pants but it is not very easy to pull it off all the time.

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May 6, 2016

thomas pink..

May 6, 2016
May 6, 2016

women in manolo's........

May 6, 2016

Short but "tasteful" skirts...

May 6, 2016

Short, of course, meaning within an inch of the top of the knee.

May 6, 2016

business casual can be cardigan sweaters and dark trousers.

as for brands, I like Thomas Pink and Ann Taylor

May 6, 2016

Theory for suits and blouses
Cole Haan has a "Nike Air" line of pumps with the Nike air shocks as insole. no need for gel pads. you can run in these and come in heel heights of kitten (1/2 in) to vixen (4 1/2 in). priced reasonably too.
Business casual: well pressed trousers, blouses, sweaters with a conservative neckline. If you have any doubts as to whether what you have on is appropriate, change it.

May 6, 2016

...can be found at score's. 60th and 1st. ask for sparkle.

May 6, 2016

a few thomas pink shirts and some ralph lauren purple label shirts

May 6, 2016

ralph lauren shirts/sweaters are very popular for us young women on the street. the original long-sleeved collared shirts were selling out in the summer because they worked so well for a biz casual day.

May 6, 2016

So how fashionable can a woman be? Is it acceptable to wear suits that are "cute" ?

May 6, 2016

Nope. Cute is generally a bad thing for women on the Street. Suits need to be real, not cute. Generally speaking (though there are exceptions) contrasting trim, odd colors, or less suitlike fabrics are not a good idea. Stick to charcoal, navy, pinstripe, and grey. Blouses and shirts can be vaguely cute(ish), as long as they're very carefully chosen.

May 6, 2016

I'm the contrarian. I hardly ever buy a full suit anymore.

Comfort for loooooong workdays is extremely important so I generally buy separates from everywhere and mix everything up. I've worn grey dress pants and a Missoni twin set to many meetings and it's been fine!

For general staples, I'm usually safe with any Theory blouse and tailored pants. I'm often either too hot or too cold in the office so I've learned to always have a black cardigan or shawl on hand...

Italian labels such as Max Mara and Piazza Sempione work well for me because I'm slightly on the petite side with a small frame. I'm also a fan of Lida Baday, Akris and Tahari separates - both have very feminine blouses, tailored pants, jackets, etc.

On the business casual side - u can never make a mistake with black Theory flat front dress pants or a J. Crew khaki trouser paired with a Vince cashmere twinset or a fun Marni blouse. Fool proof.

If you're stylish and not trashy, you can get away with more "creativity"... e.g. we can wear jeans on Friday so today I have on a grey Stella McCartney blouse with bell sleeves paired with dark wash Levi's "Capital E" jeans and Henry Beguelin cowboy boots :-)

Honestly, I probably wear the same cowboy boots during the week with black pants, white dress shirt, wide black belt + a chunky necklace and no one has ever commented anything other than "where'd you get those boots?".

HINT: Prada's version of the "loafer" is a pump with kitten heel. Grab these in a wine or brown leather... pricey, but worth their weight in gold. The heel is low enough so you can run around in them and the color goes with anything - grey, navy, black, khaki etc. These shoes kick things up a notch. I can wear 'em with a $20 J. Crew white cotton crewneck, J. Crew pants, add a stylish scarf and voila!

If I walk down the street folks will assume I'm anything but a "Banker". Alleluia.

If you're starting to build your work wardrobe - err on the side of quality. Better to spend $$ on a few quality pieces as your foundation. Buy trendy things sparingly. If you can afford it, spend on the shoes and bag. If you can't afford it... befriend a Saks salesperson and watch those Saks shoe sales like a hawk!!! Everything goes 40-60%.

Hope this helps!

May 6, 2016

I buy a lot of my work clothes at Ann Taylor Loft and Banana Republic. However, I was just promoted into a much more client-interfacing role, for which Loft is a little too casual. Banana is great for classic suits, and reasonably priced. I live near AOL Time Warner center, so I've bought clothes at Esprit and Benneton as well.

I agree with previous posts that a really nice handbag is key. I can't manage to ever leave the house with less than 3 bags of stuff (purse, gym bag, lunch etc) but my Longchamps handbag goes with everything. Probably the most expensive single item I've purchased but worth every penny.

I think women have a lot more room to dress both "wall street" and business casual as well as express their own fashion identity. I mean, how many combinations of a shirt, tie, and jacket do guys really have to work with?

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May 6, 2016

I agree, Amb. We have more room to express ourselves, but unfortunately that also translates into "more room to hang ourselves" because the lines aren't so much lines as general grey areas.

May 6, 2016

Thanks for all of your advice. I guess it depends on the firm and the group as well. I was really confused about how trendy a woman can be in banking. While shopping, I have seen a lot of shirts with ruffles or nice belts that look good around the waist of a button up shirt but I wasn't sure if it would be acceptable.

What are your thoughts on plain black dresses (sleeveless)? I will be interning and I am aware that there are a lot of social events after work so I am trying to find pieces that can go from work to evening.
Thanks!

May 6, 2016

The sleeveless plain black dress is critical! You just wear a jacket during the day.

Aug 31, 2017

I realize this comment comes long after you've finished your internship, but it may be helpful for others searching for the same. As a general rule on colors, I would always start with more conservative ones like black, navy or dark gray. If you see other women in your department (other analysts or associates) wearing bolder colors, you can try out some more adventurous options. In my bank, a colorful dress along with a dark blazer is perfectly ok for a Friday, but not for a day in the middle of the week where you will be meeting with clients.

Regarding the question on all black outfits, you're freer to wear a completely dark suit than a man is. If you wear a black skirt and a blazer, it does not look weird on a woman as long as you pair it with a lighter blouse. If you're doing black dresses, try putting a gray jacket over instead of a black one.

Understand that dress codes can vary greatly from bank to bank, and that you should always opt for the more conservative outfits until you get a feel for your particular employer.

Aug 31, 2017

Wear a dress. A skirt or something. And high heels. I like high heels. Come on, you're prettier than that.

Aug 31, 2017

!

Aug 31, 2017

Thanks!

Aug 31, 2017

I've worn both, but I think skirt suits or a business dress is nice for interviews. Depends on your body type I think. If you think your legs are terrible, then play up your best feature.

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Aug 31, 2017

fyi, the first comment there is from american psycho. this is advice from a man who drove an axe through his coworker's head

Jan 28, 2016

In Toronto, I saw a lot of pantsuits. White blouses, or light shades (blue, pink). NYC I've noticed a lot more dresses, blouse / skirt combos.

Same advice as for guys who aren't sure: try your best, but take your cues from people who you meet at networking sessions / in your office. Don't want to stand out for the wrong reasons. Overall guidance: tasteful, professional, neat.

Aug 31, 2017

Thank you for your response! Dresses are definitely easier to match so I will definitely look into purchasing some staple professional pieces.

Jan 18, 2019
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Mar 5, 2019
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Mar 5, 2019