frocking it

I just spent a depressing afternoon prepping my resume - my existence as a slacker student is almost over, I will soon have to face the realities of working life - and my mind wandered (naturally), to what I would wear for the interview (if I got that far).

The last time I had a proper interview - for the sort of jobs that required proper resumes, cover letters, etc - it was when I had to apply for professional internship positions. I applied to SPH, Mediacorp, and AFP, and I am ashamed to say that I wore identical outfits to all three of them, so deficient I was in the area of office-appropriate clothing.

It was one of those cheat Zara pullovers - black, long-sleeved tee with white attached "shirt cuffs and collars" - and dark green fitted trousers which are really glorified khakis. On my feet were cute cream Mary Jane pumps (the last time I wore heels). I carried my favourite granny purse from Mango. I wore no jacket.

When I saw the get-ups of other people - suits, actual shirts, discreet black pumps, briefcases - I felt distinctly wrong. I was a fake. The only thing serious about me were the glasses, and they are red plastic rims.

While I found out later that working for a newspaper is actually a pretty anything-goes affair fashion-wise (though I wouldn't do chic city shorts for a conference of educators), job interviews are still pretty much a whole different ball game isn't it?

I still hold the belief that you should always err on the side of the conservative, unless it's a creative job you are applying for. I am quite sure if I went in wearing my definition of nice and smart, I wouldn't get the job. Like the time I wore jeans for my law admissions interview, causing the interviewer to ask me coolly, "Do you think you're underdressed?"

Like, I would wear something like this look from Marni -

And the boring HR people will wonder if I am pregnant, or mad to wear anything to an interview without a collar. Likewise, a dress like this, which has been touted as a new uniform for work by magazines, will not win points -

What I imagine they want to see, is stuff like this -

Which is perfectly nice by the way, I do like Neil Barrett very much, but it's not something I naturally gravitate to for work every day. I mean, if I had to pick a suit and wear to work on Monday, it would look like this -

Kind of offbeat, kind of casual. Completely my style. Probably a mistake for a job interview.

FT had this nice article about the whole dresses-are-the-new-work-uniform idea fashion mags are preaching that I think makes a lot of sense.

On one hand, the dresses being proposed make a lot of sense - they are chic, usually quite proper and convey suitable formality. Like this Oscar de la Renta -

On the other hand, even as a ignorant child like me would happily wear this to a serious board meeting, I know the instant I walk in people will write me off as a well-dressed secretary, or a socialite who lunches, or some board member's wife.

I only need to look at the smart lawyers walking into Drew & Napier next door to know that 'smart' at a workplace still means something black, something with a jacket, nothing too cutting edge or frilly.

Not the exciting stuff that designers put on the runway, but probably the stuff they sell the most of.

Wrote FT's Vanessa Friedman -

"When it comes to work, jackets are from Mars and dresses are from Venus. Or, to use another well-used metaphor, jackets are seen as a woman’s sartorial Trojan Horse: useful tools for fooling observers into opening their doors to you. Dresses, on the other hand, are foreigners’ armour."

I don't think that nobody wears dresses to work - I think if you work in something that's not banking, not law, not finance (you get the idea), you actually get away with wearing some cute frocks, sans jacket, for work.

But that's still AFTER you get your foot in the door. Back down to the level of job interviews, I think I still need to muster something vaguely conventional.

But hopefully something stylish enough so as not to inspire myself to throw myself off the 20th storey when I pass a mirror. And so that my potential employers will remember me.

On the other hand, I am applying to some fashion magazines, so all is not gloomy on the job-interview fashion front...

Pictures from; FT article extract from


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