{ 74 comments… read them below }

  1. Lexy*


    Assuming she means collarbone not chin, and toes not ankles… because I'm picturing a below the knee victorian collar dress with ankle boots… it's fetching :)

      1. Anonymous*

        Assuming it’s not super hot, you can’t go wrong with a business suit (long sleeves).

  2. Erika Kerekes*

    In all seriousness, does this mean that women should never wear short sleeves to an interview? No short sleeved dresses? I’ve done that many times (and yes, gotten lots of jobs!).

  3. Anonymous*

    So I need to go get large squares and rectangles of either fabric or cement? Good to know.

  4. Anonymous*

    Its sad that we care at all about what gender the candidate is (or what clothing they are wearing)

    1. Elizabeth*

      The gender complaint I think I agree with, but I think it’s reasonable – actually, smart – for employers at many places to care in some ways what the candidate is wearing. Showing up at an interview dressed like you’re going to the beach is a sign that you either don’t understand social norms, or you choose to ignore them – which in many cases would wind up being a problem on the job.

      If your comment was only referring to gendered clothing, then yes. I think it’s too bad that our society wouldn’t allow a man to work in a law office in skirt suits, as women can. Women have a bit more freedom in this regard, actually, as it’s completely acceptable (almost everywhere) for women to wear pantsuits.

      1. fposte*

        The conflict about clothing codes always interests me, because I think it’s very similar to language and writing issues, in that the acceptable norms aren’t logical but it’s still important to understand what they are and demonstrate that you do. But people’s beliefs about the two areas can be very different, with very few people, say, defending the use of textspeak for those who find it more comfortable, even though they might defend comfortable clothes.

        Culture is all about negotiating illogical and arbitrary codes, and job hiring involves evaluating people’s ability to do that well in ways that matter to the organization. Argue for the changing meaning of *specific* clothing, sure, that I can see, but I don’t see why clothes should have some general exemption on this front.

        1. Anonymous*

          HA! Great site! (BTW – maybe there wouldn’t be two different versions if men like me looked better in capri pants – hahaha.)

        2. Anon*

          We’ve had these types of discussions here before and I’m usually firmly on the side of “I wish people didn’t care so much about clothes/hairstyles” – but, I think this is the best response I’ve read yet.

  5. Anonymous*

    That is awesome and quite humorous too!

    Why would a navy suit prevail a black one? I always thought black is more professional.

    1. Lexy*

      I have no idea what the author is thinking, obvs. but I have always thought that black suits are more appropriate for evening and navy/charcoal better for day/work. This only applies to my own sartorial choices, I couldn’t care less if a candidate is in black or navy.

      However I’m probably in the persnicketty minority of people who could give to rips about the formality distinction between black and navy.

    2. JT*

      Black suits, for most people, look terrible. Undertakers, chauffers and guys at funeral wear black suits. And sometimes rock stars and celebrities.

      Oh, and some architects and designers too, as a statement.

      Unless you’re one of the above, or have five or more suits, don’t get a black one. Dark gray is probably the most serious looking.

      1. Anonymouse*

        Ditto. Navy is far more flattering to the face, and black will show any hair/dust/sweatstain/etc you can imagine.

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          It depends on the shade of navy. Some of my suits look black until you look closely and realise they are a very dark navy which suits my colouring better. However, for me the important thing is feeling comfortable during the interview so that I can concentrate on the questions!

          1. Laura L*

            Interesting. Here in DC it seems that all suit-wearing men wear black suits to work. I’ll have to pay closer attention to figure out if they are actually Navy.

            I’m not sure how to do that without looking creepy, though. My office is business casual, so no one wears a suit.

            1. JT*

              At least on men, I doubt Laura L is seeing that many black suits in DC. They are probably dark gray or dark navy.

      2. Alex*

        Black with a nice pinstripe can be nice. I’d probably pick that over a solid navy. Just so long as the pinstripe is subtle. However you can hardly go wrong with gray (though it can be done lol).

    3. Ponies!*

      I agree…I think black looks super sharp, especially with a crisp white shirt and a great pair of black heels. Navy and gray read as slightly more casual to me. If I was going to a two-day offsite event, and knew I was going to be presenting on one of the two days, I’d wear the black suit for that.

    4. Anonymous*

      I don’t know about more professional, and maybe it’s because I’m in the design/architecture world but navy suits seem very conservative and boring to me. I wouldn’t wear one to a an interview at a design firm. Probably depends ultimately on your industry.

      1. Alisha*

        It’s also been my experience, working in a more casual and creative industry, that black interview clothes are fine for women – and sometimes for men, depending on the office and how they put their outfits together.

        Generally, I find it more tricky to choose an interview outfit at a very casual place because I have to look “edgy” and “fun” but keep up a professional appearance, whereas a black jacket and sheath dress = no-brainer. Either way, I like to stick with black as a base color, since with fair skin and red hair, certain color families either wash me out or make my hair look all circus-y. = )

  6. Anonymouse*

    This makes me wonder: I always wear a tailored suit to interviews and big cheese meetings, but women’s suits are generally designed to be more close-fitting and worn with something like a silk shell (for the gentlemen, a shell is a sleeveless ladies business shirt). This is also enforced by their cunning “BSAH” aka Bastard Small Arm Holes; there’s just no getting a proper sleeve in there!

    But I always do worry about having bared arms if the jacket comes off – it’s hot or casual, etc. I for one don’t think arms are too sexy to bee seen, but I know some folks find it very risque for women to show upper arm in an interview. I wanted to know how others felt – and see if there was a divide among the genders as to how censored upper arms should be?

    1. Chocolate Teapot*

      I feel it’s more appropriate to have sleeves to at least elbow joint, but then I don’t tend to remove my jacket unless necessary.

    2. Catherine*

      Here in Texas, I think a short sleeve or capped sleeve top would be appropriate under the suit jacket, so if the jacket had to come off, you’d have a bit of sleeve. Even though a capped sleeve is barely more fabric than sleeveless, it gives the feeling of a sleeve and is therefore more appropriate in an interview, in my opinion.

      However in the summer all bets are off. We conducted some summer interviews and I had no problem with sleeveless shirts on women, however our office is a little more casual. Also I think if you choose sleeveless, then it should have a high neck or a camisole underneath – bare arms and bare chest are a bit much. A nice sleeveless shift dress would also be good, that way your arms are bare but you don’t look too casual. And again, higher neck line. :)

    3. J*

      Oh my god, BSAH! They drive me nuts! I love the acronym, I’m going to tell everyone I know, hahah. ;D It’s impossible to shove a full-length sleeve into those darn things, they get bunchy and wrinkly and make everyone full of rage. What am I supposed to do when it’s freezing cold in here? I generally wear short sleeved shirts, just because I hate sweating in a sleeveless top. Why is it sooo haaaaard?

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I tend to think that visible armpits are never appropriate in the office, although clearly a huge percentage of women disagree with me.

      1. Catherine*

        I’d rather see a well-groomed armpit in the office, by way of a tasteful sleeveless outfit, than a ratty t-shirt and Old Navy flip-flops. And I have seen that look in meetings. With clients. My office is pretty casual (we wear jeans most days) but some people have taken it too far. :)

      2. Jamie*

        I am fully in the camp of no armpits at work – male or female.

        Well, everyone has them, but I don’t think they should ever be exposed. Cap sleeves under a woman’s suit is fine – but if wearing a shell I’d never remove my jacket.

    5. Anonymous*

      BSAH! Ha ha. I would just suffer during an interview, I think. Of course I live in Seattle so it gets warm enough to go sleeveless like three days of the year. The First Lady manages to go sleeveless and look very sharp!

    6. EngineerGirl*

      It is all a culture and industry thing. I would never wear them in my industry. Even if I could, I don’t believe that my arms are toned enough for an interview exposure. I do like flutter sleeves – they flip up for the awful suit armholes, but flop over my shoulders for appropriate coverage.

      And that’s the thing – it’s about looking crisp and professional – not slovenly. So sleeveless is out unless you have great arms. Pantsuits are out unless you have a well fitting suit (lets face it, skirted suits are more forgiving)

    7. Anon*

      When it comes to shells, I would have more of an issue with how sheer/thin they are before I’d care about exposed arms. Shells, particularly, are not really meant to be worn on their own in the workplace. I agree with EngineerGirl that the key is not to look slovenly (shave those pits! lotion those arms!), though I probably disagree with some details of her definition. I am avoiding sleeveless, even in my ultra-casual workplace, because mine are very Farmer’s Tan right now. They’re flabby too, but I don’t care about that as much.

  7. Sean*

    I’m most curious Alison about Lunch. What if you’re not a big eater and sometimes are unable to even eat the smallest dish? Should you just not order then? I mean if I order just a small order of fries sometimes I can’t even finish that due to a issue I have health wise. So with that being the case, do I just say no to food? Cover my food with my napkin and allow the waiter to take the food? Or explain all the lovely details why I was unable to finish my meal?

    1. Erin*

      I would order something light, but still meal-like (soup or a salad; just fries would seem a bit kids-menu), and eat what I could. Depending on the situation and your particular interviewer, I would either fib, “I just ate/not hungry” or tell a shade of the truth, “Medical restrictions make eating in restaurants a challenge.” In fact, you could use that to avoid the lunch interview entirely.

      1. Seal*

        Not soup! To much potential for disaster.

        Might want to avoid mentioning medical restrictions in an interview situation, too.

        1. Sophie*

          I’d probably order a salad or small appetizer, soup does seem a bit risky – if you are nervous you risk spilling it on yourself. A lot of restaurants these days are offering “small plates,” which is really nice for people who don’t tend to eat a lot anyway, regardless of reason.

          So awkward though! I have only had one restaurant interview and it was at a Starbucks. I just ordered a regular coffee, nothing fancy. As if we weren’t nervous enough, then they throw dining etiquette into the mix.

          1. Anonymous*

            Watch out for salads that have grape tomatoes! Those can make a mess and are awkward to eat.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, I’d avoid mentioning medical restrictions if you can, just to be on the safe side. And I wouldn’t say you just ate, especially if you knew there was going to be lunch. I’d just order something light (salad or something) and do that kid’s trick of pushing it around on your plate so that you appear to have eaten something. If asked, you can always say “I’m a light eater.”

    2. Ellie H.*

      I am so far from an expert on high-level professional lunch interviews but honestly I would just order something normal and eat as much as you can or care to if I were in your position. I feel like it would be unnecessary to explain any medical reasons or even make up an excuse like not being hungry. Someone who’s being polite and professional won’t interrogate you about it or even comment on your eating at all unless you act really weird about it – it would be that person’s problem/rudeness if he or she were to do so.

    3. Sean*

      Hehe thanks everyone. I’ve never had an actual lunch interview, but I thought about asking just in case one should ever approach me in the future. You never know what the future can bring.

      1. Rana*

        Interviews over meals are pretty much standard in academia, so I can offer a bit of advice here. You want things that are easy to eat with a knife and fork (or spoon) and which won’t drip, splat, or exude strings. So no hamburgers, and be cautious about things in tomato sauce. Salads of all kinds are usually good, as are meat or pasta dishes, but avoid sandwiches and things that are likely to crunch or spurt.

        My experience with interview meals overall is that you’re lucky if you get to eat half of them, as you will be answering questions and thus not able to eat for most of the “meal,” so not finishing something would be normal. (This is sad for people like me who suffer if we miss meals, but good for light eaters.)

  8. Charlotte M*

    best.link.ever! I just wish I could make this required reading for all of our applicants!

  9. Camellia*

    Clothing issues are always entertaining.

    I’ve been around long enough that I remember when women stopped wearing girdles and Baptist preachers decried it from their pulpits. No, I’m not exaggerating; I wish I was. So it didn’t faze me when my daughter’s male Goth friends in junior high would drop by the house wearing black maxi skirts. This too shall pass; I bet these young men are back to wearing blue jeans, and I have been known to pull on my Spanx for special occasions.

    But it is unfortunate that ‘business standard’ has become an unknown entity, whether it is clothing or speech or writing (u feel mi?)

  10. Anonymous*

    This makes me glad I work in a casual industry in a casual part of the country. :) I don’t own a suit; just a few suiting separates for when I really have to dress up.

  11. Wilton Businessman*

    Again, men get discriminated against. Women can have bare legs, why can’t men? If ladies can wear a tailored skirt that falls to their knees, why can’t a man wear tailored/pressed shorts that fall to the knee? Double standards suck.

      1. Anonymous*


        Hairy with bony knees, eeww.

        Honestly, I don’t know what women see in us.

    1. Kiribitz*

      You could always move to Bermuda where it is not only permissible but standard for men to wear tailored dress shorts with knee high dress socks and dress shoes as part of a business suit during the summer months.

    2. Anonymouse*

      Double standards do stink.

      But your bare legs comments is not necessarily so! Many places insist that women wear hose. And I bet they’d have something to say if her legs weren’t shaven too. The objections I have seen to men’s legs come from other men. I think you should wear a snappy kilt tomorrow if you feel like it!

    3. sparky629*

      Yeah, double standards do suck but…tailored short suits?!?!

      Really, I didn’t even know they made those for men (hey, I live in the Midwest) but that just sounds so ugly to me. I think it’s hideous when I see those sets for women in some higher end stores. The only thing I can think is…’who in the heck wears this stuff?’

    4. Jamie*

      Women know a thing or two about double standards :).

      From reading AAM I think there are more women out there needlessly judged on their makeup (or lack there of) than men who are aching to wear short suits or skirts to work.

      Although I am cracking up at the thought of an office full of guys looking like little Lord Fauntleroy.

      Fwiw I’m a woman and can’t wear a skirt/dress to work either. Bare legs and manufacturing which includes walking through the welding department is never a good mix.

      1. KellyK*

        From reading AAM I think there are more women out there needlessly judged on their makeup (or lack there of) than men who are aching to wear short suits or skirts to work.

        Yeah, I think you’re right.

        I do think that in a work environment where honest-to-goodness bare legs are considered appropriate for women (that is, legs not covered by hose or tights), men should be allowed to wear kilts or khaki shorts (the latter assuming khakis are considered appropriate, and the former I’m picturing one of the dressier utilikilts or short kilt, not the full-on great kilt–that’d just be silly). If it’s on the same level of formality, showing the same amount of skin is reasonable.

  12. Kelly O*

    I forget who I saw post this earlier in the week, but I laughed like crazy. Just cover up for an interview. It’s truly that simple.

  13. Anon*

    This is funny, but as someone who’s interviewing, it’s a bit of a touchy subject for me. I had an interview on Tuesday & was stressed the whole weekend about what to wear. I’m down south & we’ve had some 90+ degree days already. The very idea of a business suit in the hot & humid days ahead makes me crazy–especially when I wore one on Tuesday only to be interviewed by a chic in a rumpled, wrinkled little summer dress, casual sandals, and sucking on a cup of convenience store coffee. She was very nice (and, I realize, already has a job!), but a nice pencil skirt & tasteful blouse would’ve been just fine for me, I think. Would a sheath dress, cardigan, and slim belt really have been that bad?

    There’s a whole range of attire between flip flops & tees & business and all these rules end up being…just…ugh! Navy, Dark Grey, black. Sleeves, no sleeves. Pantyhose, bare leg. Tie, no tie. Business suit, or slacks and sports coat. Even with “the rules”, there are still those that show up in club clothes or like they’re running down to the corner for a cup of coffee. Does it need to be so hard and fast for those that are going to put forth the effort to make their best impression anyway?

    1. fposte*

      I don’t think the rule is that everybody has to wear a navy suit to every job interview, though. It’s just that if you’re interviewing at a place where the rule is hard and fast, you’d better abide by it. One thing you can do is check out what the people are wearing in that industry, or even, if it’s not creepy to explore, what the people at that workplace are wearing. Not to imitate them directly–your occasion is more formal than theirs–but to get an idea of what their range is.

      However, I personally would favor a cardigan layer over whatever, since there’s often stress perspiration in an interview and the A/C can be hell to deal with; a blouse with no cover isn’t as forgiving.

  14. Elizabeth West*

    I’m interviewing right now too. Don’t have a suit. I just wear nice pants, clean and polished shoes and a tailored shirt with 3/4 sleeves. I can’t wear sleeveless shirts or too short sleeves because I have a very large tattoo on my upper arm. That’s a no-no in most offices.

    I’d like to get some suits, maybe from Chadwick’s or something (they have tall sizes) when I get a job. Just to have more separates. (Really, I’d like to stay home all day and wear a t-shirt and shorts! But no, I have to work. Bleah.)

    1. Anonymous*

      Elizabeth, I think what you said you wear to an interview sounds just fine. I am slender and a petite and very conservative so I don’t have the problem of covering up anything (like large tattoo on my arm like you said you have). I like to dress pretty and girly though. I always wear heels and usually a pretty top and dress pants with a very nice short sleeve sweater in the summer. I haven’t really seen anyone interview with a suit in a long time.

    2. Jamie*

      I think that sounds fine, to be honest I’ve never had an interview suit. I had an interview uniform of dressy pants, tops, and jackets.

      It totally depends on the environment and industry.

      1. KellyK*

        The general rule is one or two levels of dressiness above what you’d be working in on a daily basis, right?

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