Your Stylist: Stylish and appropriate job interview attire that won’t break the bank

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Resident Image stylist and market editor Melissa Magsaysay soothes your sartorial woes in the weekly Your Stylist blog column

I have two interviews set up for next week, but since all my old jobs were in non-professional environments, i literally have nothing appropriate to wear to them. Plus, I’m broke from being out of work for so long. One interview is at a hospital (in a sort of grant writing-type position, not a medical environment), and the other is at a private high school for girls. So, not corporate suits, but not super-casual either. All my black pants are frayed and smell like waiting tables, and pencil skirts don’t fit me so well. Also, I prefer to wear color. How do I find something inexpensive that doesn’t look it? MB, Los Angeles

Congratulations on having not one, but two job interviews! Both sound like great opportunities and you should definitely be wearing the appropriate professional attire that’s stylish and versatile. Since you are on a strict budget, let’s focus on one item in an ensemble that you can purchase and hopefully already own the basic items to pair with it.

A no-fail item is a wrap or shirt dress in a fun, vibrant (but not too out-there) color. The style is timeless, the silhouette is flattering and it can easily be dressed up or down with the right shoes and scarf or jewelry.


Here’s a cute teal version from Banana Republic, that’s $98 but it’s all you’ll need. Pair it with some basic black pumps and a simple long necklace that follows the V neckline of the dress. The necklace is from Forever 21 and it’s $7 and the shoes are from Kohl’s and they’re $48. But you may already have a few items that would jazz up this dress. Keep the look conservative enough for a professional environment, but throw in a couple personal touches like a nice statement necklace so the overall look doesn’t read too flat.

Another option is to buy a fun and flattering skirt that can be paired with easy basics you probably already own or can grab for really cheap. I love this black and red check skirt from the Gap ($49.50). It’s already got a lot of color and pattern going on, so pair it with a fitted black T-shirt or charcoal gray top. Tuck the shirt in for clean lines and a polished finish. Top off the T-shirt with a solid, simple black cardigan. A pair of black ankle boots would make this a little trendy and fashion forward without being too edgy. The ankle boots are $27.80 at Forever 21 and the charcoal top is $18, also at Forever 21. But again, the key item here is the skirt. Get this one from the Gap or something like it and chances are that you already have a basic black, white or gray shirt to wear with it. If you don’t have ankle booties or don’t want to wear heels, a cute black flat would look great as well.

And if you are more comfortable in pants, opt for a nice, clean trouser style like this pair from Ann Taylor, $88, not something too skinny or trendy and definitely not jeans! I love the long, lean look of trousers with a cardigan in a punchy color like this vibrant green sweater with beaded embellishment from Old Navy, $32.50. It looks great with a pair of neutral gray trousers. Wrap a skinny black belt around the waist to break up the solid colors and give some lady-like definition to the waist. Since this sweater already has texture, you don’t need a necklace, but do find a casual but elegant pair of earrings or some gold bangles to add a little something special to your interview look. Above all you should be put together and 100% professional, but injecting some character to these office basics makes it personal and memorable.

Good luck!

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Photos: Top from left: Forever 21 necklace, Credit: Forever 21; Banana Republic wrap dress, Credit: Banana Republic; Simply Vera Vera Wang black heels, Credit: Kohl’s.

Middle from left: Forever 21 ankle booties, Credit: Forever 21; Gap skirt, Credit: Gap; Forever 21 gray shirt, Credit: Forever 21.

Bottom left: Forever 21 necklace, $9.80, Credit: Forever 21.

Bottom right: Old Navy cardigan, Credit: Old Navy; Ann Taylor trousers, Credit: Ann Taylor.