It is 8:00 p.m. and you have an interview scheduled for tomorrow morning. You decide to select your attire for the interview. Standing in your closet, you survey the array of jackets, slacks, blouses, and sweaters.
Conversation with self begins.
Self: “Hmm, maybe a skirt would be a good choice. With jacket or without jacket?”
Other Self: “No. Don’t like the pairings and the skirt looks dowdy.”
Self: “How about my best pair of slacks?”
Other Self: “But you don’t have a blouse to go with that, only sweaters. A bit too casual, don’t you think?”
Self: “Now here’s an outfit that is a good ol’ standby.”
Other Self: “Ooh. Shoes look kind of ratty and so ten years ago.”
Selves: Aaarghh! We have nothing to wear!
This scenario plays out often and in closets everywhere: a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear. Items purchased on sale with tags still on them. An assortment of sizes for, well, different sizes. And tired worn out pieces mixed with favorites. All this creates a confusing stage for dressing. So what is the best way to dress for interviews in the new millennium, and how does a busy woman with no time to shop create a wardrobe that works for multiple occasions?
The rise of the casual workplace has made dressing a bit of a challenge for workers and employers alike. Allowing employees to dress more comfortably was a way to increase productivity and morale, but at what cost? Not everyone used judgment in their choices and employers have increasingly complained of sloppiness and lack of professionalism. The employee in an office setting used to be able to select a three-piece suit and get dressed without too much thought or variation: a jacket with skirt and top, a jacket with pants and top. It was pretty formulaic. You had work clothes and you had play clothes, period. Today’s wardrobes require flexibility and creativity, but the capsule concept that started with the three-piece suit can still work for women with today’s varied professions and lifestyles. The basic idea behind the capsule concept is to utilize a core group of quality pieces that work interchangeably to create different looks for different occasions.
When creating a capsule from scratch, work with one season at a time. You could create one for a warm weather season and one for a cool weather season. Choose three colors that you’d like to work with based on your personal preferences and the color trends in the marketplace. Some popular combinations are red, black and ivory; turquoise, chocolate and camel; or charcoal, black and pink. Using two neutrals and one color that compliments your coloring keeps your looks interesting and attractive.
The next thing to do, is to start selecting the pieces. The idea is to pick two overpinnings (jacket/sweater), four to six underpinnings (tops) and an assortment of four to six bottoms (pants and/or skirts). Depending on your needs, the overpinnings could both be jackets or one jacket and one sweater. Choose a sweater if you need more casual outfits or travel a lot. The jacket should be the best quality that you can afford .Make sure it fits well: smooth but not tight across the shoulders, and have a tailor hem long sleeves to just below the wrist. A great jacket with unique details becomes a treasure in your closet and can make even the most casual outfit look spit polished.
Then fill in with the assortment of tops, slacks, and skirts. One of the tops should be a crisp white blouse. Make sure you have some collared blouses for professional settings and casual knit tops for fun and casual occasions. Make sure you have some trouser style pants and at least one denim pant. If you are uncomfortable in a traditional blue jean, a denim trouser is very attractive but still relaxed. Your goal is to make sure that the two overpinnings go with every bottom and underpinning, and most of the underpinnings coordinate with the pants and skirts. Choose different textures and fabrics to make each look unique. Of course, topping it all off with original and stylish accessories finishes the look and can add another dimension to each outfit.
Coordinating ten to twelve pieces can be a challenge if you do a lot of store hopping. Working with stores or lines that specialize in coordinated collections makes it much easier. Don’t be distracted by sale items unless they fit into your capsule. If you are able to coordinate every top with every bottom you should be able to create about sixty different looks with twelve pieces. And the next time you walk into your closet, your self will say “I know exactly what to wear!”
By Dara Wolfe is an Area Development Manager for Etcetera, an exclusive line of fashion forward, coordinating separates from New York.