Dressing for Success: Suits

Basic attire for men or women interviewing for a position is a suit. This article looks at appropriate suits in terms of color, fabric, and style.

COLOR

The suit color can make a difference in creating an image of authority and competence. The suit colors that make the strongest positive statements for you are your best shade of gray in a medium to charcoal, or your best shade of blue in a medium to navy.

However, you may choose a less authoritative look for some interview settings. Camel or beige are also considered proper colors for men's suits, and women have an even greater color range. Generally even women should select fairly conservative colors for a job interview unless they are interviewing for a job in a field where nonconformity is considered a plus.

When selecting your suit, choose a shade that appears enhancing to you. Should you wear a blue-gray, a taupe-gray, or a shade in between? Do you look better in a bright navy or a more toned-down navy; a blue navy or a black navy; a navy with a purple or a yellow base to it?

In general, most people will look better in grays with a blue undertone than in grays that are closer to the taupe side of the spectrum.

Most people will be enhanced by a navy that is not too bright or contain so much black that it is difficult to distinguish whether the color is navy or black.

When selecting a beige or a camel, choose a tone that complements your skin color. If your skin has pink tones, avoid beiges and camels that contain gold hues and, instead, select pink-based beiges/camels that enhance your skin color. Similarly, those of you who have gold/olive tones to your skin should avoid the pink-based camel and beiges.

FABRIC

Your suit(s) should be made of a natural fiber. A good blend of a natural fiber with some synthetic is acceptable as long as it has the "look" of the natural fiber.

The very best suit fabrics are wool, wool blends, or fabrics that look like them. Even for the warmer summer days, men can find summer-weight wool suits that are comfortable and look marvelous. They are your best buy.

For really hot weather, a linen/silk fabric can work well. Normally linen will have to be blended with another fiber, often a synthetic, in order to retain a pressed, neat look. The major disadvantage of pure linen is that it wrinkles.

Women's suits also should be made of a natural fiber or have the "look" of a natural fiber. The very best winter-weight suit fabrics are wool or wool blends.

For the warmer climates or the summer months, women will find few, if any, summer-weight wool suits made for them. Hence linen, blended with a synthetic so it will not look wrinkled, or a good silk or silk blend are good choices.

Avoid 100 percent polyester fabric, or anything that looks like it - especially double-knits - like the plague! It is a definite negative for your look of competence, power, and success.

STYLE

The style of your suit should be classic. It should be well-tailored and well-styled. Avoid suits that appear "trendy" unless you are applying for a job in a field such as the arts or perhaps advertising.

A conservative suit that has a timeless classic styling and also looks up-to-date will serve you best not only for the interview, but it will give you several years wear once you land the job. When deciding on your professional wardrobe, always buy clothes to last and buy quality.

Men should select a shirt color that is lighter than the color of their suit. JoAnna Nicholson's Dressing Smart for Men goes into great detail on shirts, ties, and practically everything you might wear or carry with you.

For women quality means buying silk blouses if you can afford them. Keep in mind not only the price of the blouse itself, but the cleaning bill.

There are many polyester blouse fabrics that have the look and feel of silk - this is an exception to the "no polyester" rule. Silk or a polyester that has the look and feel of silk are the fabrics for blouses to go with your suits. Choose your blouses in your most flattering shades and clarity of color.

Give your outfit a more "finished and polished" look by accessorizing it effectively. Collect silk scarves and necklaces of semiprecious stones in your suit colors. Wear scarves and necklaces with your suits and blouses in such a way that they repeat the color of the suit.

For example, a woman wearing a navy suit and a red silk blouse could accent the look by wearing a necklace of navy sodalite beads or a silk scarf that has navy as a predominant color. For more detailed information on effective business attire, see JoAnna Nicholson's Dressing Smart for Women.

SOURCE: Adapted from Military Transition to Civilian Success (Impact Publications) pages 374-375. Copyright 2006. All rights reserved.