What To Wear For An Interview

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What should you wear to a job interview? There is no simple answer, and it largely depends on the type of job and company that you are interviewing for. There are dozens of articles out there explaining how to dress for an interview. However, most outdated and confine what an individual can wear to gender stereotypes. We have written a new, modern guide for individuals of all gender identities on how to dress for an interview.

General Rules

There are thousands of jobs, and many require different interview attire. If you are applying to a position within the fashion industry, you may want to show your unique sense of style and stand out. If you are interviewing at a law firm, you may want to stick with a suit in a neutral color. It is important to be confident, so if you do not feel comfortable in a dress or skirt, you do not have to wear one. Be yourself! Here are some general rules to follow when picking out what you are going to wear for an interview.

  • Accessories: Accessories should generally be kept to a minimum. Here are 5 things to keep in mind while accessorizing.

    1. Bags: Make sure to have your belongings in a professional bag, briefcase, or folder. Do not show up with a shopping bag or carrying your items loosely.
    2. Belts: If you decide to wear a belt, make sure that it matches your outfit.
    3. Hats: You should not wear a hat in the interview unless it is a religious headcover.
    4. Jewelry: Having large dangling earrings or an arm full of bracelets or can be distracting. The sound of the bracelets clinking together can be very distracting.
    5. While unfair, many employers will judge you if they see that you have tattoos. If possible, you might want to consider covering them.
  • Excessive Makeup: Individuals are generally advised to avoid dark eye makeup, bright lipstick, and heavy foundation. However, you might want to ignore this rule, depending on what industry/job you are looking at. For example, if you are interviewing for a job at Sephora, you might want to wear bolder makeup.

  • Neutral colors: You should generally avoid loud and bright colors. Colors like black, beige, brown, blue, and gray are safe options. If you want to add in a pop of color, think about having a colorful tie, socks, pocket square, or an undershirt. Make sure that it complements the rest of your outfit and is not distracting to the interviewer.

  • Patterns: You should generally steer clear of overly complicated patterns. Something tasteful and simple is fine. If you want to play it safe, choose solid colored clothing. While patterns can be fun, you want the interviewer to remember you for your qualification, not your outfit.

  • Too casual: When in doubt, dress up. It can be challenging to wear dress clothing when you are living in a warm place. If you are interviewing in a business casual or professional environment, you should not wear casual shorts, flip-flops, or a tank top. Avoid colors that show sweat like light grays and wear breathable clothing if possible.

Clothing Don’ts

You want the interviewer to see that you take pride in your appearance and are taking the interview seriously. It would be best if you tried to avoid the following five things.

  1. Headphones: Avoid wearing headphones when you are walking into the interview or waiting for the employer to call you in. You do not want to seem distracted and may not hear your name when the interviewer is looking for you. Also, if you are wearing headphones, you are going to have to put them away. If someone is coming to greet you and goes to shake your hand, you may not be able to in time because you will be trying to put your headphones away.

  2. Clothes that don’t fit: Your clothing should not be too big and baggy or too small and tight. You can wear a baggy top with tight bottoms or vice versa. However, if everything is loose, you risk the chance of looking unprofessional. You should also avoid hemlines that are too short, plunging necklines, and see-through clothing.

  3. Perfume/Cologne: While it is nice to smell good, it is easy to overdo it. Your interview might have an aversion to specific or strong scents, and you do not want to make them uncomfortable. Consider ditching the perfume or cologne. Shower beforehand, wear deodorant, and brush your teeth.

  4. Stains: Before walking out the door, make sure to look in the mirror and check your outfit for stains. If you are planning to eat, take public transportation, or do something else before your interview, bring a change of clothes in case something happens to your outfit. If you are someone prone to stains, avoid wearing light colors like white.

  5. Wrinkles: Make sure that your clothes are wrinkle-free. You may come off as lazy or not put together if your outfit is full of wrinkles. If you do not have an iron at hand, you can use a blow dryer to get rid of wrinkles. You can also hang up your clothing near your shower and steam them while you are taking one.

LGBT community side by side

Transgender is a word commonly used to describe people who live in a gender different from the one assigned to them at birth. Gender-nonconforming refers to individuals whose external manifestation of their gender identity does not conform to society’s expectations of gender roles – Lambda Legal.

Dress Code

Before deciding what to wear, try to find out what the company’s dress code is. Is it formal, business casual, or casual? Do they not have one? Knowing their dress code will allow you to show up in clothes that match the company’s culture and are appropriate for the workplace. Here are 5 things that you can do to find out more about a company’s dress code.

  1. Ask: Do not be afraid to ask someone about the dress code. Before an in-person interview, you will most likely be communicating with someone from the company who is arranging all of the details. They are a great person to ask about the company’s dress code.

  2. Keep the environment in mind: Know where you are interviewing. If you are interviewing at a pre-school, you might want to dress a little more conservatively than if you are interviewing at a bar as a bartender. Certain places have dress codes. For example, labs and construction sights require you to wear closed-toe shoes.

  3. Look it up: You can search online for an employer’s dress code. An easy google search is “[company name] dress code. This approach works better for larger, more established companies.

  4. Research: Many companies have websites, Instagram pages, Twitter accounts, and Facebook pages, with pictures of their office space and employees. You can look through those pictures and get a feeling for their dress code. Companies often post out of office events, so make sure that you do not mistake their outfits in those with their office dress code. You do not want to show up in casual attire because you saw pictures from a weekend baseball outing and walk into an office where everyone is wearing suits.

  5. When in doubt dress up: If after this, you are still unsure about what the company’s dress code is, it is smart to dress on the nicer side. It is better to be overdressed than underdressed. In general, tech companies, startups, nonprofits tend to be more casual, and firms and banks more formal.

Business Professional Attire

Most companies in traditional industries require their employees to dress in formal attire. These industries include but are not limited to banking, insurance, law, and finance. For these interviews, make sure that your outfit is polished and professional. Suits and pantsuits are great for professional/business interviews. In general, your suit should be a neutral color like black, a darker grey, or navy with no patterns. Make sure that your shirt matches your suit. If you want to add a pop of color, choose a fun tie or pair of socks. Keep in mind that some companies will appreciate bolder color choices while others may not. Here are some additional things to keep in mind while picking out the perfect outfit.

formal

If you want examples of what business formal work attire looks like, The Balance Career has a great article with several images.

Business casual attire

Many employers require employers and interviewees to dress in business casual attire. Business casual is a source of confusion for many, and the difference between business casual, formal, and casual attire can be vague. The basics of business causal are that wearing shorts, a t-shirt, and flipflops is too informal, and wearing a full suit is too formal. Here are some do’s and don’ts for business casual interview attire.

formal

If you want to see what business casual work attire looks like, The Balance Career has a great article with several example images.

Casual Attire

More and more companies are opting for casual work and interview attire. However, when a manager tells you to wear anything you want, it can be confusing. Casual attire does not mean that you can throw all standards out the window and wear anything you want. For example, you should not wear anything you would wear to a club, or clothes that are too tight or see-through. Your clothes still need to be professional and appropriate for the workplace.

formal

Casual interview attire gives you a little more freedom with what you can wear and lets you break out your prints and colors for a fun and professional look. If you are still struggling to envision what a casual dress code is, The Balance Careers has a great article with several pictures. They also have specific clothing examples for casual job interviews.

Best Colors To Wear

First impressions are important, and the color of your clothing can influence an interviewer’s initial perception of you. Wearing certain colors can also make you feel more confident when walking into an interview. Here are 6 common colors that individuals wear to interviews and what they convey.

  1. Black: Black conveys power, strength, and authority. It can work well with just about any other color. Interviewers perceive black as an indicator of confidence, and according to studies, it is a great color to wear for interviews.

  2. Image by Peau De Loup

  3. Blue: Blues are calming, comforting, and uplifting, and a great color to wear if you are feeling anxious or stressed out. Navy blue is the most popular color for interview attire and can help you convey confidence to the interviewer.

  4. Image by Peau De Loup

  5. Brown: Brown is a natural color that is associated with the earth. When you wear brown, you are showing the interviewer that you are grounded and reliable.

  6. Image by Kirrin Finch

  7. Gray Wearing gray tends to give you a more conservative or formal appearance. You can substitute black with a darker gray and white with a lighter gray. However, be mindful gray can wash you out.

  8. Image by Peau De Loup

  9. Red Red conveys confidence and passion. Red, in addition to orange and yellow, is a warm color. These three are great if you want to add a pop of color to your outfit. Be mindful of adding too much red to your outfit because some people associate it with arrogance.

    Image by One DNA

  10. White White represents new beginnings. It is fresh and bright and a particularly great color for shirts and blouses. Similar to black, it can work well with almost any other color.

  11. Image by Kirrin Finch

Gender Neutral Clothing

So, now that you know the dos and don’ts of interview apparel, how do you find the perfect outfit? Department or thrift stores are often overwhelming and separated into a men’s and women’s section. To help you out, here are the top 9 gender-neutral clothing brands when it comes to interview attire. These companies break down restrictions and allow individuals to experiment with different clothing options.

  1. Kirrin Finch: Kirrin Finch is a conscientious clothing company with gender-defying fashion. They create menswear-inspired apparel designed to fit a range of female and non-binary bodies. Their brand also uses ethically made clothing and environmentally sustainable fabrics and practices. Their clothes work for casual, business casual, and professional interviews.

  2. GFW Clothing: GFW knows that one size does not truly fit all and creates clothing that fits your body, not your gender. They offer a great selection of shirts, ties, bow ties, and cufflinks that are great for business casual interviews. GFW has an incredible guide to help you figure out what design works best for your body shape. They also ship worldwide!

  3. DANG STHLM; Founded in 2019, DANG STHLM is a clothing brand focused on ethical and sustainable production. Each piece of clothing is made from deadstock fabric, which is waste or leftover fabrics from suppliers or factories. Their mission is to create long-lasting wardrobe staples, emphasized on gender fluidity. Their Tay Trousers are perfect for business casual and professional/business interviews.

  4. Big Bud Press: Big Bud Press is a California based label that specializes in size-inclusive, unisex clothing. With ethical and local manufacturing practices, they want you to feel confident in what you wear. They have a diverse collection of trousers and work pants for all body shapes and in every color of the rainbow. They also have a collection of Jr. Varsity Tees that pair perfectly with their pants. At Big Bud Press, you can get great clothing for business casual or casual interviews.

  5. Peau De Loup: Pau De Loup specializes in well-made button-downs for bodies with curves. They have a mission to leave as small of a footprint as possible and use fabrics leftover from other companies to make their shirts which are close to zero-waste. Each shirt has a secret inside pocket big enough for cash or your phone. If you are looking for something more formal, they have a Founder’s Suit. You can pair their suit shirts, jackets, and trousers together to create the perfect suit.

  6. Riley Studio: Riley Studio strives to make conscious consumerism the norm and put eco-innovation and sustainability at the center of everything they do. They have an incredible wardrobe of gender-neutral staples that are great for any interview setting. Their knitwear section is perfect for those living in colder areas, and their recycled wool tailored trousers will match just about anything. They also offer worldwide shipping, a lifetime guarantee, and free returns for all UK orders!

  7. Tomboy Toes: Tomboy Toes believes that you should feel great and confident in what you wear. They sell formal and semi-formal men’s style shoes in sizes intended to fit women, trans men, non-binary people, and anyone else with smaller feet. Their shoes are great for causal, business casual, and professional interviews.

  8. One DNA: One DNA is a genderless NYC brand centered around inclusivity for all body types and gender identities. They design gender-neutral pieces that break down the boundary between women and menswear. Their black and gray blazers are perfect for interviews. They also have incredible high waisted pants that can be paired with a variety of shirts.

  9. Sharpe Suiting: Sharpe Suiting is a premier suiting label in Hollywood towards the more expensive end. They have a patented and trademarked formula that finds a look that will fit you and match your unique style and identity. Whether your look is more feminine, masculine, or androgynous, Sharp Suiting’s clothing works perfectly for professional/business interviews.

Free Clothing

Gender-neutral clothing can be expensive. Here are some places that have free clothing for transgender, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming individuals.

  • In-person shops: There are dozens of organizations that offer free gender-neutral clothing. Here are 3.

    1. Brave Space: Located in Portland, Oregon, Brave Space offers free clothing to trans, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming individuals. They have changing rooms and bags that you can take home. Brace Space is open Monday through Friday from 12 pm to 5 pm. If that time does not work for you, you can schedule a time to come by outside their regular hours.
    2. Transform: Transform is a closet in Cincinnati, Ohio, where transgender and gender non-conforming youth can get a new wardrobe and accessories. Their services are free, private, and by appointment only.
    3. Clothing Closet: Located in mid-Missouri, Clothing Closet “offers clothes to all queer people in need.” Individuals bring in clothes that they no longer wear and take clothes that they want. You can use Clothing Closet up to four times a year. They also have a dress clothes category, which is great for interviews.
  • Clothing Swaps: Clothing swaps are a great way to update your wardrobe. While there are some in-person swaps, there are even more online. Most exchanges are targeted towards transgender individuals. Reddit’s Trans Trade page, The Tumblr Transgender Clothing Exchange, and The Transgender Friendly Clothing Swap are great places to start looking.

  • Local LGBTQ+ Centers A number of LGBTQ+ centers offer free clothes to those who need them. You can also donate to these centers. You can also donate to these centers. For example, the Los Angeles LGBT Center has a program where they provide professional clothing along with new personal hygiene and cosmetic products to transgender and gender non-conforming individuals.

  • Student Services: Many colleges and universities have resource centers for the LGBTQ+ community. These resource centers sometimes have clothing exchanges.

Facebook Groups

Facebook is an excellent platform for finding clothing exchanges and organizations that offer free gender-neutral clothing.

  • Facebook Pages: Many Facebook pages promote in-person clothing swaps. Here are 2 in Washington and Oregon.

    1. Queer & Trans Clothing Exchange Seattle: This page is home to “the Seattle queer and trans clothing exchange.” They have biannual events open to all members of the LGBTQ community. They provide individuals with a safe, welcoming environment where they can get gently used clothing at low to no cost.
    2. PDX Trans & Queer Clothing Swap: This clothing swap is located in Portland, Oregon. They have quarterly clothing swaps with a diverse selection of clothes.
  • Facebook Groups: Facebook groups are a great place to look for online clothing swaps. Here are 2 groups that you should consider joining.

    1. Trans & Non-Binary Clothing Swap: This page allows individuals to swap clothing online. Their group is for people who identify anywhere on the gender identity spectrum that may not be able to afford clothing that matches their gender identity.
    2. Trans and Queer Bay Area Free Pile: This page creates a “low-stress environment for trans* and queer folks to offer, seek, and request resources free of charge from others within the greater Bay Area trans* and queer community.”

Workplace Discrimination

Gender-based discrimination is illegal during hiring, discharge, promotion, referral, and other facets of employment. Employers should modify their dress codes to avoid gender stereotypes and apply them consistently to all employees, according to the Human Rights Campaign. While a company can enforce a formal dress code, it is illegal for them to require men to wear suits and women to wear skirts or dresses. Here are a few things you should know about.

  • What is Gender-Based Discrimination? Gender-based employment discrimination is when an employee or applicant is treated unfavorably because of their gender.

  • What Are Employers Allowed To Do? Employers can enforce dress and grooming guidelines if they are within reason and serve a legitimate business purpose. The Human Rights Campaign writes, “Employers can legally implement gender-specific dress codes as long as they are not arbitrarily enforced and do not favor or affect one gender over another.” Note that in most cases, employers cannot monitor or regulate the way employees dress outside of work.

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII): This act prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, or sex. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) interpretation of Title VII’s prohibition of sex discrimination includes any employment discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. They enforce the law based on this interpretation. These protections apply regardless of any state or local laws to the contrary.

Taking Action

If you feel as though you were discriminated against and want to take action, Title VII makes it illegal for employers to retaliate against you for speaking out or filing a discrimination charge. Here are a few avenues to reporting that you should be aware of.

  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC): If you feel you have been discriminated against under Title VII, you can file a charge with the EEOC. The EEOC walks you through how to file a Charge of Discrimination on their website.

  • State-Dependent Laws: Several states, counties, cities, and towns have specific anti-discrimination laws and agencies to enforce them. These states and local agencies are called “Fair Employment Practices Agencies” (FEPA). If you file with FEPA, your claim will automatically be dual-filed with EEOC if federal laws apply, and FEPA has a work-sharing agreement with the EEOC. This means that you do not need to file with both.

  • Filing a Lawsuit: If you choose to file a lawsuit alleging discrimination on the basis of sex, which includes gender identity and sexual orientation, you have to first file a charge with the EEOC. Once you receive a Notice of Right to Sue from the EEOC, you have 90 days to file a lawsuit in court. You can look at this EEOC webpage for more information.

  • LGBTQ+ Workplace Discrimination: If you identify as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, you can look through these resources. They include legal information helplines, lawyer referral services, legal services and assistance, and discrimination intake forms.

The information in this section is not legal advice and is not a substitute for such advice. State and federal laws change frequently, and the information in this article may not reflect your own state’s laws or the most recent changes to the law.

Devon Feuer
Devon Feuer
Author