I received the following cry for help this past weekend:
I’m flying to Kentucky in several weeks for graduate school interviews, then Maryland, and then Florida. Memphis is a maybe. Sooo my issue is a few pieces to swap around to create several interview outfits, in addition to more casual attire for a dinner at a prof’s house. I want to look professional but still bring some fashion into it, if not quirk. I personally am wondering if a plain white t-shirt could be placed under a suit and then a turquoise necklace added to keep it youthful and interesting. On that note, I need ideas for what to wear under a suit jacket, and how (if possible) to avoid wearing pants to every interview. What color tights are acceptable, and what kind of shoes?? And for a coat, what do I do then? It’s winter in some of these places, and Kentucky said the weather is super unpredictable so bring rain stuff.
This is a phenomenal question and one that is relevant to a lot of people. Whether you’re traveling for work, interviews or even a wedding, if there’s business or formal attire required it can be hard to decide how much clothing to pack. If you read my Wanderlust post you’ll know that I’m a big fan of interchangeable pieces and mixing & matching articles of clothing so that you can take a smaller bag. That’s especially relevant in this case since the reader will be on the road for nearly a month – who wants to carry multiple heavy bags around for that long?
The key here is going to be separates and layering, that way you can add to the outfit or take pieces off without losing the professional feel of the look. Since she’s going to be attending graduate school interviews the foundation of her suitcase needs to be a suit. Or two. I recommended that she buy two suits – a pants suit and a skirt suit. (I sent her three emails covering clothes, packing and accessories. Including pictures and links. Overkill?)
For the pants suit you want something simple but of nice quality so that you can mix it up for different occasions – pants with a button down & no jacket, full suit with a t-shirt or just the jacket over jeans w/ a striped t-shirt.
For cocktail parties, receptions, dinners etc a Little Black Dress is a bit too informal so I would go with a sheath dress paired with a blazer that can be taken off. This can easily be spiced up with heels & funky jewelry to keep it fun and young, but remains professional.
- Bottoms: A pair of black pants and a pair of nice, dark wash jeans – no holes!
- Outerwear: Either a black or tan trench coat or a black coat (cashmere, wool – whatever), something that will cover you backside and is big enough to layer over a sweater.
- Travel clothes: I recommend choosing a comfortable, non-wrinkly outfit that you can use for all your traveling. I usually pack black pants with a long-sleeved shirt, boyfriend cardigan, scarf and flats.
You can really let your personality shine through with how you choose to accessorize your outfits, I would pack lots of accessories and add them to each look to give it a bit of punch, but you need to keep in mind your audience and not go overboard.