have been out of the work force for over 13 years on disability
and am hoping to start work part time again this year. I am fifty
years old and know a lot has changed in work attire. What basics
would you recommend that I use to start and update my interviewing
and work wardrobe? Any tips on hairstyles?
business attire has clearly gone through some major gyrations,
but you may be surprised to discover that true professionalism
hasn’t changed that much. With the downturn in the economy
and these unstable political times, business dress has lately returned
to a more serious tone.
Start with your best power-neutral color, such as
black or navy. As your budget allows, purchase a three-piece suit
that includes a tailored jacket, skirt (long or short), and pants
in matching fabric. This combination covers the basis for interviews
within traditional business environments (where you would wear
a skirted suit), or business casual ones (where you could wear
a pantsuit). And on a daily basis, it allows for greater mix-and-match
Many suit lines today have the individual garments
available to purchase as separates; yet, they match as a suit would.
This allows more flexibility with budget concerns and ensures a
better fit, as few women are the same size on the top and bottom.
One such line worth noting is the “Collectibles” line
at the Casual Corner stores (including the Petite Sophisticate,
and August Max Woman stores). Collectibles are designed for the
working woman on a budget. Varying jacket, skirt, and pant styles
are available in black and navy year round, and the store guarantees
that the dye lots will match. Anne Klein offers an “Essentials” line
based upon the same concept. However, it’s generally only
available in black and it’s more difficult to locate, as
many department stores do not stock those particular pieces.
It’s imperative that you have the right shoes
for interviews. Even today, a closed-toe/closed-heel shoe is still
considered the most professional. Ideally, the heel height is 2
to 3.” Within those parameters, it can be as stylish as you
like. Opt for black shoes, even if your suit is navy. While it’s
not chic to wear navy shoes with black, it’s a-okay to wear
black shoes with navy clothing. Navy shoes are difficult to match
to navy clothes, which can vary greatly in tone. Leather doesn’t
take especially well to navy dyes. Thus, navy shoes are often a
medium shade, which is too light to go with a dark navy suit.
A collared silk blouse, in a color that’s flattering
to you, is a must-have item. This worn with your dark suit (skirt
or pants) can go just about anywhere in the world and command respect.
Knit tops will dress the suit down a bit. Add a few blouses and
knit tops to stretch the wear-ability of your suit pieces. Sweater
sets (in a contrasting but complimentary color to your suit) can
also stretch your business wardrobe dollars. They can be worn as
is with pants or skirts for a casual look. And the basic piece
can be worn under a suit jacket, as a flat knit top. For extra
panache, throw the matching cardigan over your shoulders and tie
it for a chic, dressed-down pantsuit look.
I recommend that you read my book, Casual Power,
as it has many outfit ideas appropriate for varying levels of business.
And there’s a section on “Vertical Dressing,” which
adds an aura of authority and personal power to a woman’s
silhouette. In addition, there are chapters on the Capsule Wardrobe
Plan and on how to build a business wardrobe on any budget.
Hair matters. Get a stylish cut that flatters your
face shape, if you do not have one already. Hair is a great communicator
and one of the first things noticed about a person. When job hunting,
it’s important to convey on the nonverbal level that you
are living in this decade and are informed in the now. Typically,
professional lengths are never longer than two-to-three inches
below the shoulders. Shorter styles are considered more professional,
particularly at your age range. If you have a lot of gray, consider
coloring it. Gray can connote wisdom and experience, but it can
also make a woman look tired and dull. Do your best to look dynamic
to increase your hire-ability and your promote-ability.
Best of luck to you,