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The Law Firm Interview Suit! | Manolo for the Big Girl

The Law Firm Interview Suit!

An internet friend from the Northwest wrote to us:

I’m a law student in need of a suit for upcoming September interviews for next year’s summer positions . . . the law is one of the most conservative professions, so I need a conservative suit. . . . Any suggestions as to cut? Colour? Fabric? Pants or skirt? Shoes? I’m a tall size 18 and while well-endowed in the chest and shoulders department, my large hips tend rather to eclipse my upper half. I’m pale, with brown hair. My good body points are my chest, hands, and long legs. Please advise.

Francesca is well-versed in the need for ultra-conservative interview clothing. She once had an interview at a large advertising company in New York — one would think that an advertising firm in New York would welcome a tad more creativity than, say, a law office in Washington DC — and received feedback that Francesca had done a nice job on the interview, but the extremely conservative navy blue dress she was wearing was not conservative enough, because it was a dress and not a suit.

Francesca said: Whatever! I will become a freelance writer and travel the world, always meeting new and fascinating people and writing about interesting things that make for terrific, sparkling conversation at cocktail parties. You can take your advertising job and keep it in your little cubicles while you yearn to move into a corner office! I, meanwhile, the great Francesca, will be paid to blog about fashion from the comfort of cute little bistros!

Ahem, Francesca has gone on a tangent. Our internet friend wishes to become a lawyer, and so we must return to the topic at hand: conservative suits.

First, the law job interview suit must be navy blue or black, and, it goes without saying, made of the finest materials you can afford. Detailing such as narrow pinstripes and buttons should be simple and tasteful. This is not the time to take risks or try to make a bold statement with your fashion choices. The goal is to make a bold statement with your intelligence and professionalism instead. The focus will be on your talents, not on your fashion sense. We do not want to distract your interviewers the way Francesca has become distracted.

Skirt or pants? What do you think Francesca will say? (Hemlines should be at or beyond the knee, not above it, especially as one does not want to show thigh while sitting for an interview! And a just-below-the-knee hem will highlight your pretty calves.)

Since our internet friend is pale, Francesca recommends navy blue (over black) so that contrast between skin and clothing will not be too severe or make our friend look pale under the office lighting.

Pair the suit with an ivory or off-white shell or simple (not frilly) blouse. Silk is always a good choice. I recommend against white in your case because the light reflecting from the blouse may make you look more pale. Remember to wear a bra which matches your skin tone, so it does not show through the blouse!

As for style, indeed it is difficult, as a Big Girl, to find suits which are appropriately conservative without making us look boxy. Francesca has conducted a search and found many example of suits which are either cheaply made (horror!), or box-shaped (yuck), or available in black but not navy. Francesca very much wishes to find a navy suit for her friend. Behold! I have found this perfect example of well-made, conservative suit with attractive but non-distracting details, from our friends at Talbot’s!
The jacket (here in Women’s):
Italian wool three-button jacket

And the matching skirt:
Italian wool straight skirt with front pleats

And here are the links for this suit and skirt in Women’s Petite sizes! And in regular sizes through 20!

As for shoes, here are the ultra-ultra-conservative pumps by Vigotti:

the shoes to get you the lawyer job

If you can get away with some detailing, and would like to save a little money while you live on a student income, you might choose these very pretty and more affordable shoes by Ros Hommerson:

Francesca loves shoes with straps across the toe!

Either way, wear pantyhose which match your skin tone! Navy blue hose are too “matchy” and white will make you look like a nurse instead of a lawyer.

Best of luck on your interviews! Please tell us how it goes!

xoxo, Francesca

16 Responses to “The Law Firm Interview Suit!”

  1. loretta August 26, 2007 at 11:13 am #

    I wouldn’t go for that second pair of shoes for a law firm interview, because the crisscross detail smacks of that casual “sport” look you see on comfort flats. You can likely find something more in the vein of the first pair that doesn’t break the bank — just don’t let the heel get any thicker than that.

    As one who works in advertising in NYC, I’m pretty outraged and surprised that a conservative navy dress wasn’t good enough for Francesca’s interviewer. WTF.

  2. Shazza August 26, 2007 at 1:50 pm #

    Very nice choice of jacket, but I would be concerned that the length of that skirt would ride pretty far north on larger hips and/or thighs. Also, the pleats may not do such a body good! This ample and slightly pear-shaped lawyer would opt for a slightly longer, simpler skirt. I’m also in agreement with Loretta on the shoes. Any attention diverted to your attire will only take attention away from what you really want to shine…your knowledge, your skills, the person you are, and the hardworking advocate you will be for your employer!

    Good Luck!

    And yes, I again echo the Loretta re your interview attire…another hearty Sunday morning WTF!

  3. Girlfriend August 26, 2007 at 5:10 pm #

    Talbot’s is a good choice to find quality, tailored plus-size clothes. I would also suggest the Jones New York Colection line, which can be found at better department stores, including Nordstrom. Some other lines I would rec. are Dana Buchman, Ellen Tracy and Marina Rinaldi.

  4. Toby Wollin August 26, 2007 at 8:47 pm #

    Navy blue or black. Cannot grey – medium (not too light) be also a good choice? I agree that black can be a killer, especially if the peron’s complexion is too pale or sallow and that navy is “kinder” to most of us. But I would also like to offer grey. If it were later in the season (say, late October through December), shades down to charcoal might be possible, but if it’s September or early October, when temperatures can still be warm, I would think medium grey would be acceptable. Perhaps? As for the shoes – always go for the most conservative, “upper class” looking ones you can find – though finding navy that matches can be tough. In that case, I’d go with best black pumps you can find, with a matching brief or handbag (I’m not sure here – what are women carrying as “handbags” to interviews now – is a brief or folder acceptable in order to carry extra resumes, etc.? In which case, you would want black pumps and a matching black leather brief or folder. No gold initials or any of that truck on it, but the best you can afford.

  5. Francesca August 27, 2007 at 3:25 am #

    Toby-
    My understanding is that traditionally it must be blue or black. If you wear grey, you are taking a chance that you fashion choice will “stand out” too much.
    Again, we are talking about law jobs. Different industries have different standards.

  6. stillnadine August 27, 2007 at 7:26 am #

    Talbots may be eliminating its 24 woman petite size because it does not sell as well as its other sizes!! Let the protest campaign commense immediately. If any company would respond to customer complaints, it’s Talbots!

  7. Lexy August 27, 2007 at 3:40 pm #

    The best piece of advice I ever got for interviewing is:
    You will never not get a job because of something you didn’t wear. (exception, if what you are not wearing is a top, or bra, but I think you get my drift) You may very well not get a job because of something you do wear. i.e. loud clothing or too many accesories.

    Don’t forget to wear your hair all the way up if you can, and no perfume, you never know if your interviewer is sensitive to scent.

    Of course you already knew that.

  8. La BellaDonna August 28, 2007 at 1:22 pm #

    Francesca, have you worked in a law office at some point? I only ask this because … well, because I don’t know if you have, and if you’ve been in a position to observe first-hand, or whether you’re using advice that you’ve garnered from other sources. I do work in a law office, and have for … gack. Since they first started heating up the tar for La Brea Tar Pits. Generally speaking, black suits are not recommended for interviews, because they’re considered intimidating on women. Navy or grey are much better choices. She also has the option of wearing a yellow blouse, with the navy, which will give the impression of friendly openness, as well as industry. White or blue would be good with the grey. A really good resource is John Molloy’s updated Women’s Dress for Success Book. Not Clinton and Stacy, not Trinny and Susannah, not any self-styled expert, but John Molloy, who gathered a lot of data, and put it in digestible and usable form – including how women can compensate for their size in professional settings. A lot of folks get offended by the information in his book, but the book is not about his personal opinions – it’s about the opinions that are held in a number of different fields in which women wish to find employment. It’s like having the Cliff Notes for interviewing.

  9. Diana August 28, 2007 at 2:13 pm #

    As a plus size woman and lawyer, I say navy, navy, navy all the way. And wear a skirt that hits just below the knee. Most of your interviewers wouldn’t be bothered by a pantsuit, but some will. Why take the chance? Go as conservative as humanly possible.

  10. Christina August 29, 2007 at 12:40 am #

    I’ve gotten fabulous suits by Tahari at Dillards (some even on sale for less than $150) and Lord and Taylor’s “Context” line has done well for me also. I work in the fashion industry, and a suit from Talbot’s would never cut it, as their cuts tend to be on the more conservative or “mature” side.

    I also love the Nine West 2″ pumps – sleek line of a stiletto, but much more comfortable. I have them in both black and gray…in a size 12. I see now they only have through size 11, though.

    http://www.ninewest.com/n/browse/product.s?productId=11520&source=category&index=30&prodIndex=30&listSize=50&categoryId=

  11. Bossy lawyer August 29, 2007 at 2:02 am #

    Some highly bossy comments from an East coast lawyer. For a law firm interview, charcoal grey is absolutely fine. Preferable to black. Navy is great too. Avoid brown. Some lawyers disagree with pinstripes in summer / junior associate interview suits because they imply a certain degree of confidence and success not appropriate for the junior person. A pleated skirt looks too girlish.

    Personally, I wore pants back in the day as a way to screen firms, but an a-line skirt is going to be more flattering on your body type.

    Get the best shoes you can afford without going over the top. Female lawyers will notice.

    Good luck, and remember to relax (hah!) and be yourself!

  12. Nariya August 30, 2007 at 11:24 pm #

    Bossy lawyer – why do you say to avoid brown? I’m about to go shopping for interview clothes as well and am interviewing at an east coast law firm, coincidentally, so I’m just curious!

  13. lalawyer September 8, 2007 at 12:16 am #

    I agree with Bossy Lawyer on everything except the black. Gray is fine, navy is fine — though I tend to think navy looks a bit *too* conservative, which may actually work against you depending on the type of firm (similarly, you don’t want your shoes to be too dowdy); also, as was noted above, navy shoes are tough to match, and black shoes never look quite right to me. But the vast majority of the women in my law school class (myself included) wore black suits to interviews, east and west coast. Professional, allows for a bit more blouse color freedom, and easy to match to shoes. If it looks good on you, go for it.

    Avoid the brown! My brown suit is by far the nicest I own — gorgeous lightweight wool, perfect cut — but I don’t think I’ve ever gotten an offer out of an interview where I wore it. A male friend of mine did the same black vs. brown experiment, with the same results. Coincidence??

    Keep in mind that what you wear to an interview has nothing to do with what you will wear when you work at the firm — most of them are business casual these days anyway!

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  15. cjvp April 30, 2008 at 12:00 pm #

    I’m just wondering what would be a good choice for business casual. Lalawyer mentioned people wear business casual in law firms. My daughter has an internship with a law firm in New York this summer and we are not sure what she should get. All of her clothes are very casual college attire. Thank you in advance for any suggestions.

  16. Cat April 30, 2008 at 2:44 pm #

    cjvp: I work in a business casual law firm. Nobody ever wears a suit here unless they are going to be in court or meeting with clients that day. Most of the women (attorneys and staff) wear the type of attire you can find at Ann Taylor, The Limited, Banana Republic, and the like. Nice pants and a pretty blouse or sweater are the norm around here. No capri or cropped pants, no denim, no spaghetti strap or tank tops, no sweatshirts or logo t-shirts, no tennis shoes or flip flops, but otherwise you can get away with a lot.