It's officially graduation season, which means a lot of you are presumably going on, or planning to go on, job interviews. Of course, people go on job interviews all of the time, but we thought now would be as good a time as any to pick the brains of some of the fashion industry's most seasoned interviewers to compile a list on what you should -- and, perhaps more importantly, shouldn't -- wear to interview for a position in fashion.
One key thing we learned is that unlike, say, the finance sector, various jobs within the fashion industry warrant different types of interview outfits. So we talked to people in different fields -- PR, editorial, and design -- about what they've seen, what worked, what didn't, and more. Read on for what they said and what we determined to be the seven most important guidelines. Oh, and if you're looking for a job, you should obviously check out our careers page.
Wear something you feel comfortable in and be yourself.
"Be yourself" might be the most overused piece of advice of all time, but enough of the people we spoke to insisted upon it that we decided not to spare you. It's natural to want to project some super fashionable idea of yourself for a job interview, but your interviewer will be able to tell. "The only things I notice are when people seem uncomfortable in their clothes," says Taylor Droddy, who works in accessories PR. "A good interviewer is going to be able to see right through someone," says Stephanie Perez, a former senior recruiter of digital media talent at Hearst and currently talent partner, tech & product at Thrillist Media Group. "If you're wearing lots of make-up and normally don't, we're going to know when your eyeliner is crooked and there's red lipstick on your teeth." Essentially, you want to look natural enough that your interviewer can expect that this is what you'll look like on a regular basis. "Your outfit should be thoughtful, neat, reflect your personal style and it should tell me that you have an elevated taste level irrespective of what label you are wearing," says Way.
That being said, you should also reflect the aesthetic of the company you're interviewing with.
If you're interviewing for a designer or specific fashion brand, for instance, you aren't expected to be wearing that designer head to toe, but it doesn't hurt to try and reflect their aesthetic. "As a designer, I do appreciate if an interviewee has studied the collection and the overall feel," says Lela Rose. "I don't feel like an interviewee needs to dress like the collection but tailoring their look so that I feel like they understand the aesthetic is important."
Jessica Way, director of human resources at Derek Lam, echoes that sentiment. "Your outfit tells me two critical things right off the bat: how well you understand our brand and how important the interview is to you." She adds, "In the end, it is all about dressing for the position you want and sending the message that you are the right fit for the company and for the particular team you want to join."
Some actionable advice from Perez: "Do lots of research on the people you're scheduled to meet with, the company culture, go through their social media and look at photos of the team from the office, events, etc."
Don't overdo it.
The old Coco Chanel quote about taking one thing off before you leave the house applies well in job interview situations. Going too far with your lewk could get you noticed for the wrong reasons. "The most memorable thing an interviewee wore was a baseball cap turned to the side, tons of elaborate jewelry, patterned tights (as pants) and high top sneakers," Way recalls. "That outfit is fine for a night out in Williamsburg, perhaps, but not for an interview at Derek Lam." Perez says, "Too short skirts, transparent blouses, too low-cut shirts, too high heels, too wrinkled suits, too distracting ties, too much make-up or hair product - anything that can be described as 'too much' of anything is usually not a good idea. Remember, interviews aren't a fashion pageant, you're there because of your resume, skills and background."
"I think a person should look office-appropriate," says Ariel Foxman, InStyle's editor in chief. "I don't want to be seeing any skin. I really, really want to remember what somebody is saying and not what they're wearing."
Be clean and get a manicure.
Perez says that wearing something visibly dirty or wrinkled or having an overall unkempt appearance could give the impression that the interviewee wasn't making an effort and that they weren't detail-oriented. Plus, little things can be distracting: "Something as small as your nails can be something an interviewer looks at. Unless you're interviewing for a hand-labor intensive role, really make sure that your nail beds and hands are clean - remember, first impression is everything and you'll be shaking multiple hands at your interview."
When in doubt, just wear black.
"If you are at a loss for what to wear to an interview, remember: JWB (Just Wear Black)," advises Way. "The most important thing is for you to be yourself and comfortable in your own skin first, outfit second."
You don't have to wear heels.
In fact, don't unless you know you feel comfortable in them. "Unless you can really take ownership of those shoes - you don't want to be remembered as the woman who tripped out of the office, hit the coffee table and knocked over the office vase," says Perez.
Your clothes can definitely make an impression and make you memorable, so taking risks can pay off.
Basically, if you're confident you have great style, go for it. While no one we spoke to said that they've made a hiring decision (positive or negative) based solely on someone's outfit, most of them admitted that clothing does make an impact. Foxman says he has "never, ever disqualified somebody based on an outfit or an accessory," but admits he usually notices someone's coat and bag and says he was once told that he got a job because of a Prada belt he wore to his interview. "I'm so glad that I heard that so many years later that that had an impact, because I did spend money on that belt, but I have to hope also that I made an impression otherwise." He adds, "I can't tell you for the life of me what my two assistants who are so fantastic wore to the interview."
"I actually pay a good amount of attention to the outfit choice and do remember what they wore, especially if it is an interesting look," says Rose. Our sources unanimously agreed that it's important to at least look like you put effort into how you look. "Make sure you look like there was a method to your madness and you did make an effort to look your best," says Perez.
This article was updated to reflect Stephanie Perez's current position at Thrillist Media Group, which had changed since the time of the interview.