Let's Talk About the Capstone Wardrobe

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A take on the capsule wardrobe of coordinating staple pieces that every woman should own, the capstone wardrobe takes the same approach—but is geared toward the recent college graduate, with the interview process in mind.

There's no way around it: The suit is standard attire in the interview process, no matter the job. You are creating first impressions. From an interviewer's standpoint, the suit means you are "taking this process seriously and wanting to be a part of the organization," said Lori Staggs, Assistant Director in the Career Center at Grand Valley State University and Liaison in the College of Business. And she wants those being interviewed to know, "it's that level of confidence that lets you put your best foot forward."

Let's start with the basics. Women should invest in a pantsuit in black, navy or a dark grey. You'll need a traditional long-sleeved, button-front shirt underneath—or you could even wear a sheath dress under the jacket.

If you're on a budget, upscale consignment boutiques and discount stores such as Nordstrom Rack, Marshalls and T.J. Maxx have amazing prices and are great for picking up mix-and-match pieces and the traditional black jacket. Wherever you buy the suit, make sure it's tailored properly so it appears as though it was made for you. Nobody wants to look like they are wearing someone else's suit, that's too long in the arms or too tight in the shoulders.

Now, imagine you've scored three different interviews at one company. You can't wear the same outfit each time. This is where you swap out pieces to create the look of a larger wardrobe. One day it's the jacket and sheath dress, while the next it's a skirt-blouse-jacket combo, followed up with the pantsuit. Utilize colorful blouses to keep each outfit looking new and fresh. Something as subtle as a small scarf can make a difference, and styling your hair up or down creates the illusion of multiple looks.

If you're unsure of the company culture and dress code, rest assured: The suit is the obvious choice. It's your built-in confidence boost—and you can avoid overdressing and underdressing by sticking with a professional suit, which covers every situation.

And remember: People are looking at your shoes. Don't dismiss this crucial piece in your outfit choice, because it's about the right heel height. "They might give you an office tour or have you walking quite a bit," said Staggs. If you are in uncomfortable 3- or 4-inch heels, you might be unsteady on your feet. Keep heel height to a minimum 2 inches, or try a wedge heel that still looks professional.

"We talk with students about their résumé, cover letter and interview strategies," Stagg said, "and this is about the whole package—your brand and how you're putting yourself out there. Suits are a very good investment, and it's going to give you a good return."

Written by Missy Black, a footwear fanatic, style child and contributing writer for West Michigan Woman. 

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