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Dress for Success

Interviewing Attire

Appearance is a very important aspect of how you present yourself. Your clothing should be similar to that of others in the organization, sending the message that you could easily fit in. Part of your preparation for an interview should include doing research ahead of time as to what type of clothing is appropriate, make some phone calls—Vassar alums can be helpful here—to try to get a sense of the dress code. Review what you already have in your wardrobe to see what might be appropriate, then plan to add any essential items (or borrow from a friend) so that you are ready when the time comes!

The guidelines below reflect a relatively conservative approach to interview attire that will be in your favor most of the time. If you are interviewing in a creative field, such as advertising, public relations, fashion, graphic design, theater, or film—you can probably be a bit more creative with your outfit; the same would hold true for organizations where fieldwork is the primary job activity. Use a bit of detective work and your good judgment. 

Pinterest can help provide visuals for the distinction between business and business casual. A quick search of business attire or business casual attire on Pinterest will assist you in finding your own style for work. Quintessential Careers is another helpful resource to consult with when thinking about interview and job attire. The career counselors in the CDO are also available to offer "fashion advice" for your interview!

Business Attire for Men and Women:

  • A two-piece business suit (navy or other dark color).

  • Consistent look; avoid wearing a business suit with sandals or sneakers.

  • Well-groomed hairstyle: avoid unusual styles or colors.

  • Minimal cologne or perfume.

  • No visible body piercing, including multiple earrings in one ear.

  • No more than one ring on each hand: wedding/engagement ring acceptable.

  • No visible body art; cover tattoos with clothing if possible.

  • Breath mints; use one before greeting recruiter.

Specific Tips for Women

  • White, off-white, or neutral-colored blouse with a conservative neckline.

  • Suit with a skirt preferable to a pantsuit.

  • Avoid ill-fitting (short, tight, clingy, or slit) skirts; no higher than one to two inches above the knee when standing.

  • Closed-toe leather pumps with low to medium heels; avoid open-toe strapped high heels, sandals, or shoes with decorations.

  • Skin-colored nylons.

  • Briefcase or portfolio in place of a handbag or purse.

  • Understated makeup.

  • Small stud earrings instead of dangling or over-sized earrings.

  • Long hair pulled back in neat, simple style; no "big hair" or elaborate styles.

Specific Tips for Men

  • Long-sleeved broadcloth shirt in white or light blue.

  • Conservative necktie in color and pattern: avoid cartoon characters, less-than-serious graphics, or theme ties.

  • High-fitting dark socks; avoid light colored socks with a dark suit.

  • Business-style leather shoes.

  • Match shoe and belt color; don't mix black and brown.

  • Briefcase or portfolio, no backpack.

Once You've Landed the Job...

Attire for employment will generally be either "business" or "business casual." If employers tell you that the dress is business casual, then you should use the following dress code. If you're not sure, ask.

Men—Appropriate Business Casual

Business casual means khakis, chinos, or gabardine trousers and a collared shirt for men, either polo-style or button-down. Ties are optional, with wool or cotton sweaters, trousers, and loafers with dark, coordinated trouser socks being fairly common.

Men—What NOT to Wear: Business Casual

T-shirts and jeans (worn together), dirty sneakers, sandals, no belt (and your pants have belt loops), shirttail out, caps (baseball), active wear (jogging suits, wind suits, outdoor wear, camouflage fabrics, military fatigues, hiking boots, etc.).

Women—Appropriate Business Casual

For women, the guidelines are similar to those for men. Higher heels are no longer as popular as they used to be. Slacks, skirts, and city shorts (top of the knee), and tops with coordinating vests or wool or cotton sweaters. Flat leather shoes with dark, coordinating trouser socks are appropriate.

Women—What NOT to Wear: Business Casual

Poorly coordinated outfits, humorous attire or accessories, leggings or stirrup pants, casual and short shorts, ultra-short skirts, no hosiery or socks, camisoles, sportswear, T-shirts, jeans, sweats, athletic shoes, or thong-like "flip-flop" sandals.