Sunday, January 13, 2008

Desperate Clothing Query

Okay, all you people with much better fashion senses than I, I have a question for you.

For this upcoming campus interview, I'll need two days' worth of suits. I have two suits; unfortunately, they are not of equal merit. The first is fine. Comfortable, flattering (I think), what have you. The second--well, the second was supposedly tailor-made to fit me, but the pants have never ever been comfortable, and they just look funny--they bunch up in the front, strain across the back, and are generally ill-fitting and cheap-looking. Can't wear those for the job talk. (The jacket is OK, if not as nice as the first jacket.)

The plan is to wear the nicer suit for the first day (when I'll be doing most of my interviewing and my teaching demo), and then Something Else for the second day (when all I have scheduled is a breakfast, a library visit, a lunch, human resources, and my job talk).

So here's my question. Or questions, I suppose; it's more of a two-parter.

1) Would it be okay to wear the solid-black jacket with a pair of black pin-stripe pants? The blacks in the two garments are close enough that there wouldn't be an obvious clash, but it would be obvious that these items didn't originally belong together (because, of course, one is pin-striped and one is solid).

2) If not, can I wear the better-fitting suit pants with the other jacket? They're both black, but not quite the same black, and someone might notice that I'm wearing the same pants two days in a row. Not sure if that matters. Or if anyone will be paying such close attention to an innocuous pair of black pants that they would detect the repetition.

Or life could be easy, and I could wear the same suit both days (with different shirts), but that doesn't seem right. (Or is it? Can I do that?)

Any other options out there for me? I am in possession of very little formal attire: I have some long skirts and button-down shirts and a variety of rather eccentric sweaters. Long skirt + button-down could make me look reasonably professional, but it isn't a suit. And none of my skirts go with my suit jackets. At all.

Should I switch things around, and wear the questionable outfit on the first day--when I'll be making first impressions and will generally be more visible (in the teaching demo)--and save the nicest suit for the job talk, when I'll be meeting the entire department? Actually, no, I'd rather not do that. I'll be writing on the board and gesturing a lot during the teaching demo, and the better jacket is definitely preferable for that kind of activity.

Bear in mind that it is, literally, impossible for me to procure any new clothing between now and the interview. Unless I make a run on the local thrift store on Tuesday morning, and I think it would be best for everyone if I didn't do that.



Flavia said...

You can definitely wear the good pants with the different suit jacket on the second day, as long as the blacks look reasonably okay together. No one will notice that you're wearing the same pants--they're black pants, for God's sake.

But if the two suit jackets are both black, that makes me wonder how different they are. I'm assuming there's something truly and obviously different in the cut or details, because otherwise. . . I'd say just wear the same suit both days, but with visibly different accessories/shirts. I really think wearing the same suit is fine regardless (think of how often men wear the same suit, but with a different tie!), and if you've got some colored shirts, or striking necklaces/earrings/scarves/whatever, you're in even better shape.

I've personally hesitated to wear the same suit two days in a row, because I always wear the jackets buttoned up (they hang funny on me if left open, for chestal reasons), with sleeveless shells underneath. . and when there's only a tiny little triangle of colored top showing, it's harder to make the outfit look different from one day to the next. Still, I'd FAR rather do that, in a suit I felt confident in, than wear something I felt not-quite-right in.

And seriously? Only a handful of people are likely to notice. And NO ONE is going to cross you off the list for not having a lavish professional wardrobe.

Hilaire said...

I was going to say that Option 1 was just fine. I have done that to good effect at an interview, actually - worn a brown suit jacket with a very crisp cream shirt and a pair of sort of stripey-browns trousers. I liked it so much I wore it again to a conference presentation. I think that with the right shirt, the effect can be quite good...formal, but not too formal.

But Flavia makes a good case, too.

Dr. Virago said...

I think the black jacket with pin-stripe pants is fine, especially if the blouse picks up the color of the pinstripe (white or whatever it is). Stacy and Clinton do that sort of thing on What Not to Wear all the time (that is, when they're showing what TO wear).

And wearing the same black suit with different blouses and accessories is also OK.

Also, if you have a tailored sweater or blouse, you could pair that with black pants for day 1, since you'll be teaching and not doing the more formal job talk. We've had candidates who wore tailored blouses with tailored pants and looked very polished -- like they'd simply taken off their suit jacket.

Pilgrim/Heretic said...

Oh, I think option 1 is great. I've been on several hiring committees over the past few years, and I don't think I've seen any candidates wear suits two days running - as dr. virago says, a nice sweater or blouse on day 2 is fine.

Good luck!

Maude said...

option one is good. option 2, no. you don't want it to look like a mis-matched suit. wearing the same suit two days in a row with different shirts and accessories definitely fine, as everyone else has suggested. also, i agree with dr. virago's other suggestion--the tailored shirt or sweater with the nice suit pants for teaching. also, the same thing could apply with a really nice skirt for the teaching day, too. i mean, you can really really dress it up with your options. accessories can really help, too.

also, i know you don't have time to go shopping, but banana republic has some suits on sale (like super mark-down) so if there's one near you, maybe you can take an hour out to go check it out. but, like you said, that's probably not an option.

good luck!!

squadratomagico said...

Whew! You've gotten a lot of good advice. The only thing I have to add is to chime in that wearing a polished, but non-suited outfit the first day would likely be fine. These things may differ from place to place, but here at OPU, full-on suits are a rarity, even for interviewees.

Flavia said...

Oh, and how rude of me! I forgot to say congratulations and good luck--so, congrats and good luck! I'll be thinking of you. . .

What Now? said...

I like option 1 here, but I also think Dr. Virago makes a good point. The important thing, to my mind, is not to ear the pants that you feel uncomfortable in; the wardrobe goal should be to feel confident and comfortable in the outfits you choose and then forget about them. (Sadly, this is something I'm rarely able to do myself, but I still think it's the right goal!)

Belle said...

All good stuff above; so now, just make sure you feel great in what you're wearing so that you can concentrate on the more important stuff. Relax, breathe, focus and be confident.

heu mihi said...

Okay: I'm going for the same-suit-two-days-running strategy, with markedly different shirts. Whew. Thanks for all the advice! I'm keeping this for the future, when I have shirts that are sufficiently well tailored to wear with pants and not feel like I just straggled out of Old Navy.

Thank you, everyone! This has been really helpful!

Maude said...

good luck!!

medieval woman said...

GOOD LUCK! And I think you made the right decision suit-wise, but I also think that Option 1 would have been great as well.

You'll knock 'em dead!