Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Where to wear | Interviews for creative-types

A few weeks back, my friend T posed this question in a comment:
I would love to know what I should wear for graphic design/artist interviews. Entire suits are overkill for us. What do you suggest?

T brings up a good question -- not all business clothes are right for all businesses.  Not all interviews are alike.  We recently hired a new graphic design intern here at work, and let's face it...presentation matters in this situation, especially in such a visual job.

There is a slight caveat here.  While, yes, we don't want people judging us solely based on appearance, it can affect an interview, both positively and negatively.  And that's just the same outfit.  The first thing to ask yourself is: what is my design/creative philosophy?  Are you a minimalist that lets the content and elements speak for themselves?  Do you push the limits of what's acceptable and hope it pays off?  Are you an unabashed girlie girl designer? Are you great at dealing with in-house clients for corporate design work?

A few general rules still apply to job interviews, especially those for in-house design jobs, in which a corporate HR person will probably be involved in the process (their opinion does count in those cases).
  • Keep it covered.  Skirts and dresses should be no shorter than 2 inches above the knee.  Sleeveless looks should still be demure, and keep that neckline in check.
  • If you are currently in a creative job, try something you would wear to the most formal day on your job.  Chances are it's still not a suit.
  • Separates (blazer + pants or skirt that don't match) are your friends. 
  • Depending on your style, use accessories to show your creative bent.

Since creatives are such a diverse bunch, here are some looks I found for each of the different design styles mentioned above.

The Minimalist
Minimal does not equal boring.  The key to a minimalist creative look is fit and cut.  Have fun with proportions.  I love this top with a narrow trouser, white asymmetrical blazer and some architecturally inspired heels. Minimalists can also go with mens-inspired pieces, such as a trousers and a vest (no jacket). 
I had a hard time finding looks at retail sites for this one, but think Jil Sander for inspiration...beautiful cuts and drapes with minimal frill.

The Experimentalist
Mix prints and graphics for an out-of-the-box look.  The blazer adds polish.  I would aim for a slightly longer skirt.

The Girlie Girl
Have some fun with colors and accessories here.  I love the brightness of this look, but might go with a shorter jacket so it doesn't look like you should be taking the coat off when you go indoors.

The Corporate Designer
This is the most similar to the traditional office interview look.  Try mixing a blazer with fun details with trousers or a pencil skirt.  Throw in some playful shoes and accessories.  I like this blazer, too.

Do you have a creative, a traditional, or other kind of job? What did you wear for your interview?


  1. I've been a graphic designer for 15 years in 4 cities, and this advice rings true. You can't go wrong with a blazer, pants, and heels. I like a blazer with a different cut or some other creative spin on it. A skirt may be too formal, but you could do a skirt if you're wearing a cardi.
    Good luck!

  2. I work at a design firm. For a meeting with clients or other designers, I wear something like this. I take advantage of the creative studio environment by mixing patterns and busting out my 50+ pairs of tights throughout the year.

    For my initial interview with my current firm, it was a really hot day, so I wore a lightweight cotton floral button down with a knee length cotton skirt, diamond fishnet tights, and contrasting pumps. I wore a vintage rust cord blazer to my first interview with the previous design firm at which I worked.

  3. yeah i am not necessarily in a creative field, but I always tend to put a little creativity and personality into my interview attire. I little color or pattern with a neutral, like a fun printed top with a black pencil skirt. Sophisticated but interesting jewelry. And I never wear ordinary black pumps to an interview. Even if the rest of the outfit is a suit... I always jazz it up with the heels. Even in the most corporate environment the shoes can speak volumes about your personality.

  4. @ Faith - Thanks! I love the advice about blazers...there are so many interesting options out there I just want them all.

    @ tastymoog - Great combo you've got there! Sounds like you really know how to channel your creativity into your style.

    @ Jenni - So true--we don't have to be creative to express ourselves through fashion. I do have to admit, though, that I usually default to the black suit formula (although it's been a while since my last interview). I hope next time I go job searching I can mix it up more.

  5. I have a creative job and I wore a skirt and blazer combo with a little colorful camisole underneath. I wanted to be restrained b/c my job is at an university but still have fun.

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